Vaginal cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects women . The vagina is a tube-like organ that connects the cervix, the lower part of the uterus, to the external female reproductive organs. Its is also sometimes known as the birth canal because the baby passes through the vagina during birth. how many types of vagina cancer?
The vagina is lined with a layer of flat cells called squamous cells. This layer of cells is also called the epithelium because it is made up of epithelial cells. Vaginal cancer most commonly occurs in these cells.
Vaginal cancer is most common in women age 60 or older, with about half of cases occurring in women age 70 or older, while only 15% of cases of vaginal cancer are found in women younger than 40.
Many types of vaginas cancer can spread to the vagina from other places in the body, but cancer that begins in the vagina is rare, and the chances of recovery increase if vaginal cancer is diagnosed in its early stages, while it is difficult to treat when it spreads outside the vagina.
Types of Vagina Cancer
There are different types of vaginal cancer that affect different types of cells in the vagina, which include:
Vaginal cancer treatment
Vaginal cancer treatment depends on many factors, such as how close the cancer is to other organs, its stage and type, your age, whether you’ve had a hysterectomy to remove your uterus, and radiation therapy to the pelvic area.
Your doctor will likely recommend one or more of these treatments for vaginal cancer:
This is the most common treatment for vaginal cancer. Your doctor may use a laser to remove the cancerous tissue. In some cases, the doctor may have to remove all or part of the vagina, and may also remove the uterus to remove the cervix or other organs.
Many women can have a normal sex life after surgery, but intercourse may increase the chances of infection, cause bleeding or stress at the surgical site, so you must adhere to the doctor’s instructions.
2. Radiation therapy
This treatment uses high-energy X-rays or other forms of radiation to kill cancer cells. Your doctor may use a machine that sends X-rays into your body or can insert radioactive material into your body or into or near the cancer.
Radiation treatments to the pelvic area can damage the ovaries , which may cause them to stop producing estrogen and cause menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness, but if you’ve reached menopause you may not experience these problems.
This type of treatment can also irritate healthy tissue, and the vagina may be swollen and painful, so intercourse may cause some pain.
This treatment is used to kill or stop the growth of cancer cells, by giving some medications orally or injecting them into a vein. In some cases, the doctor may give chemotherapy in the form of a lotion or cream.
This treatment may cause loss of libido, nausea, hair loss and changes in body weight, but these side effects will disappear after treatment.
4. Palliative or supportive care
Palliative care is specialized medical care aimed at relieving pain and other symptoms to improve the quality of life for cancer patients and their families. Cancer patients may feel better and have a longer survival when used in conjunction with all other appropriate treatment options.
Vaginal cancer prevention
There is no sure-fire way to help prevent vaginal cancer, but you can reduce your risk by:
- Undergo regular pelvic exams and Pap tests. When vaginal cancer is detected in its early stages, it can be cured.
- Consult a doctor about the HPV vaccine to prevent it, and thus reduce the risk of vaginal cancer. This vaccine is intended for people aged 9-45 years, and younger patients need fewer doses for complete protection.
- stop smoking.
- Wait until your late teens or later to have intercourse .
- Use a condom during intercourse.
1. Vaginal squamous cell carcinoma
It is one of the most common types of vagina cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma accounts for about 70% of all cases. This cancer begins in the cells that line the vagina near the cervix.
This type spreads slowly and tends to stay close to where it started, but it can move to other places in the body, such as: the liver , lungs, or bones, and this type often affects older women, as it forms women aged 60 and over Almost half of all new cases.
2. Vaginal adenocarcinoma
This type of vaginal cancer begins in the glandular cells in the lining of the vagina that secrete mucus and other fluids, and accounts for about 15% of cases of vaginal cancer. It usually affects women over the age of 50, and it can spread to other areas, including the lungs and lymph nodes in the groin. .
3. Clear cell carcinoma
Clear cell carcinoma is a rarer form of adenocarcinoma, and it most often affects younger women whose mothers took a hormone called Diethylstilbestrol (DES) in the early months of pregnancy, which doctors prescribed in the 1950s to prevent miscarriage and other problems.
4. Vaginal melanoma
It is one of the rarest types of vaginal cancer and accounts for about 9% of all cases. Melanomas usually occur in the outer part of the vagina in the pigment-producing cells or melanocytes in the vagina.
5. Vaginal sarcoma
It is a rare type of vaginal cancer that accounts for about 4% of cases. This type of cancer begins inside the walls of the vagina and not on the surface. There are different types of sarcoma, such as:
- Rhabdomyosarcoma: This is the most common type that occurs mostly in children.Leiomyosarcoma: It occurs more commonly in women over the age of 50.
- Vaginal cancer symptoms
- Vaginal cancer often has no noticeable symptoms, which means it is often at an advanced stage when it’s diagnosed, which is why it’s important to have regular checkups for women, during which sometimes vaginal and cervical cancer can be diagnosed before any symptoms are noticed.
As it progresses, vaginal cancer may cause the following symptoms:
- Unusual bleeding from the vagina unrelated to menstruation, often after intercourse or after menopause.
- Pain during intercourse.
- Abnormal vaginal discharge that is watery or foul-smelling.
- A noticeable lump in the vagina.
- Pelvic pain.
- Pain when urinating.
- frequent urination.
- Although 8 out of 10 women diagnosed with vaginal cancer have one or more of these symptoms, these symptoms do not necessarily mean vaginal cancer and may be a much less serious condition such as infection, but it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible in case The appearance of any of these symptoms.
Vaginal cancer causes and risk factors
Some cases of vaginal cancer have no clear cause, but most are related to infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD). HPV infection often goes away on its own, but if it persists it can lead to to cervical and vaginal cancer.
In general, cancer begins when healthy cells, as a result of acquiring a genetic mutation, turn into abnormal cells that grow and multiply uncontrollably, causing the formation of a mass or tumor.
Factors that may increase the risk of vaginal cancer include:
- Getting older, as most women diagnosed with vaginal cancer are over 60 years old.
- Human papillomavirus infection.
- Infection with the herpes simplex virus.
- Cervical cancer or precancerous lesions.
- HIV infection.
- smoking .
- drinking alcohol;
- Exposure to diethylstilbestrol.
- The presence of abnormal cells in the vagina called vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN).
- Early age at first intercourse.
- Vaginal cancer complications
- The most important complications of vaginal cancer is that it may spread to other distant places of the body, such as: the lungs, liver, and bones .
Vaginal Cancer Diagnosis
As mentioned earlier, vaginal cancer is often discovered during a routine examination before signs and symptoms appear, which include:
1. The first step in diagnosis
The initial diagnostic procedures include the following:
During which the doctor examines the external genitalia, then inserts two fingers of one hand into the vagina and presses at the same time with the other hand on the abdomen to feel the uterus and ovaries. He may insert the speculum into the vagina to be able to examine the vagina and cervix for any abnormalities.
This is usually used to check for cervical cancer, but sometimes vaginal cancer cells can be detected during a Pap test.
How often a woman undergoes these tests depends on her risk factors for developing cancer.
2. The second step in diagnosis
If the result of previous Pap tests were abnormal, and based on the results of these tests, your doctor may perform other procedures to diagnose vaginal cancer, such as:
An examination of the vagina using a colposcope, which is a magnifying instrument equipped with a light, which allows magnification of the surface of the vagina to see any areas with abnormal cells.
A procedure to remove a sample of tissue suspected of having cancer to check for cancer cells. Your doctor may take a biopsy of tissue during colposcopy and send this sample to a laboratory for examination under a microscope.
3. The third step in diagnosis
After your doctor diagnoses vaginal cancer, he or she will do imaging tests, such as:
- X-ray imaging.
- Computerized tomography .
- Magnetic resonance imaging.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan.
- Other tests to stage the cancer and see if it has spread to other parts of the body.
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