Munson Health
Vaginal Cancer

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by Puzanov I

(Cancer of the Vagina)


Risk Factors

These risk factors increase your chance of developing vaginal cancer. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam, including a pelvic exam. You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in women’s health (a gynecologist).
Tests may include:
  • Pap test—tissue from the inside of the cervix and upper vagina is scraped and tested
  • Colposcopy—a lighted, magnifying instrument is used to examine the vagina and cervix in great detail
  • Biopsy—removal of a sample of vaginal tissue for testing
If cancer is found, additional tests are usually done to determine whether or not it has spread to other parts of the pelvis or elsewhere in the body. These tests may include:
  • CT scan—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the body
  • MRI scan—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the body


Once vaginal cancer is found, staging tests are done to find out if the cancer has spread and, if so, to what parts of the body. Treatments for vaginal cancer depend on the stage of the cancer.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is the use of high-dose radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation is usually directed at the tumor from a source outside the body. In some cases, radioactive material may be temporarily placed near the tumor to expose the cancerous cells to a constant level of radiation. This is called an implant and generally requires a short hospital stay. Other radiation treatments are outpatient.


This involves the surgical removal of a cancerous tumor and nearby tissues, and possibly lymph nodes. Depending on how far the cancer has spread outside the vagina, the doctor may remove the vagina, cervix, uterus, and sometimes the bladder, rectum, and parts of the colon.


Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. This treatment may be given as a topical cream, pill, or intravenous injection. Except for topical creams, in which the drug is applied directly on the walls of the vagina, chemotherapy drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells, but also some healthy cells.


American Cancer Society

Gynecologic Cancer Foundation



Canadian Cancer Society

Canadian Women's Health Network



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