Vaginal cancer: symptoms, causes and treatment options

What is vaginal cancer?

Vaginal cancer is a rare type of cancer that occurs in the vagina, which is the muscular tube that connects the uterus with the outer genitalia. It mostly occurs in the area known as the birth canal. It is a group of cells that form the surface of the vagina. Many subtypes of cancer can spread to the vagina from different body parts. However, the cancerous cells that originate from the vagina are the major cause of vaginal cancer

Diagnosis done at an early stage for vaginal cancer has much more chances of getting cures than that done in the later stage. If discovered at a later stage, chances are that the cancerous cells might have spread over a larger portion of the body. 

The study has found that around 2000 women are diagnosed with vaginal cancer annually. 

Listed below are a few symptoms of vaginal cancer

  • Abnormal bleeding from the vagina (especially after intercourse or after menopause)
  • Liquid vaginal discharge
  • A chunk of mass in the vagina
  • Pain while urinating
  • A repeated impulse to urinate
  • Pain in the pelvic region
  • Constipation
  • An uneasy sensation in the vagina
  • Pain in the back area of the leg or swelling of the leg
  • It may not be possible to always be on the lookout for any of these symptoms. Hence the best viable option is to do a timely checkup of the genitals.

Symptom tracker can prove to be really helpful in managing vaginal cancer.

What causes vaginal cancer?

Most cases of vaginal cancer are a result of unprotected intercourse, which gives rise to human papillomavirus or HPV infection which are transmitted sexually. It happens once a person gets an HPV infection. Women who have a hysterectomy are more likely to be affected by vaginal cancer than women who do not. 

Studies have also shown that women who are above the age group of 60 are more like to be diagnosed with vaginal cancer than others. Also, women who have previously undergone a diagnosis for cervical cancer are more likely to be caught with vaginal cancer. Also, the usage of a vaginal pessary during a pelvic organ prolapse is associated with increased risks.

Vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia is cells that are dissimilar from healthy cells but not so much different from being classified as cancer cells. Sometimes these cells can develop into cancerous cells.

Drinking alcohol and smoking can also contribute to the development of vaginal cancer. In cases, if the patient has had cervical cancer previously or pre-cancer, it can lead to vaginal cancer. Even having HIV can lead to the formation of vaginal cancer.

However, in most of the cases, there is no connection of vaginal cancer to any specific causes.

Risk factors related to vaginal cancer

With the increase in age, the risk of having vaginal cancer also increases. Most people over 60 have a significant chance of getting affected by vaginal carcinoma.

Exposure to miscarriage prevention drug can also lead to vaginal cancer. If a pregnant woman takes a dose of diethylstilbestrol, then she may have an increased risk of developing a specific type of vaginal cancer. It is known as adenocarcinoma.

Some of the most common reasons behind it are:

  • Having several sex partners
  • First intercourse at an early age 
  • Heavy smoking and drinking 
  • HIV infection 
  • Vaginal cancer can spread to other body parts such as lung, liver, and bones 

Treatment options

The most common treatment options are laser vaporization or intracavitary radiation. Sometimes tropical therapy with 5-FU cream can also be considered an option, but this treatment often lasts for more than 5-10 weeks. Even after doing these treatments if the cancerous cells still come back, surgery may have to be done to remove those cells.

Radiation therapy is ideal for stage one vaginal cancers. If the tumor is less than 5mm thick, then only intracavitary radiation may have to be used. In cases when the cancer cells are undoubtedly large parts of the vagina may be considered to be removed to prevent the cancer cells from growing out. For cancer cells growing in the upper part of the vagina, the only option is surgery.

For stage two, cancer types the most common treatment is radiation. Brachytherapy and external beam radiation can prove to be helpful. Radical surgery is an option for some women who have stage two vaginal cancer in the upper vagina, and the cells are small. In some cases, the tumor is diagnosed in the lower third of the vagina. To treat the lymph nodes in the groin or pelvic region radiation therapy may be used. 

For stage three, the usual treatment is similar to that of stage two. As radiation therapy, along with both brachytherapy and external beam radiation are effective. Sometimes chemotherapy may be combined with these therapies depending upon the condition of development of the cancer cells.

In stage four, the cancer cells usually tend to spread to other parts of the body, and that is not possible to cure. Radiation therapy may be used to ease pain and reduce bleeding. A combination of chemotherapy with radiation therapy can also come in handy. Since there is no standard treatment for this stage; therefore, chemotherapy alone can not help women survive a prolonged period of the disease. However, when combined with radiation therapy can give better outcomes.

What is treatment tracker, and how can it be used to treat vaginal cancer?

Treatment Tracker is a device that helps to keep track of any disease along with medications reminder along with the most advanced feature available, which is symptoms tracker. Care clinic is a treatment tracker that has the complete toolkit for patients who are undergoing any form of treatment.

Treatment Tracker is the complete toolkit to kickstart a self-care program for patients with features not only to track medications and symptoms but also to track daily physical activities including weight, sleep, blood pressure, and supplementations.

Treatment Tracker can also be used to track vaginal cancer. One can even check out the best doctors from treatment tracker and how other patients have rated one.

Noting down their treatments and medications for and treatment tracker will do the rest of the work for them starting from keeping track of any change in drugs, to any change in symptoms, to any change in treatment procedures. Creating multiple custom fields that are relevant to may help in never losing track again.

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