Vaginal Cancers

Vaginal Cancer

Vaginal cancer is an uncommon disease in which cancer cells grow in the walls of the vagina. Risk factors for developing vaginal cancer are high- risk HPV (human papilloma virus) infection, age, and being exposed to the drug DES (diethylstilbestrol) before birth.

There are often no obvious signs of early vaginal cancer, however symptoms of vaginal cancer may include:

  • bloody vaginal discharge not related to a menstrual period
  • pain during, or bleeding after, sexual intercourse
  • pain in the pelvic area or rectum
  • a lump in the vagina
  • blood in the urine

There are a variety of tests that may be used to detect vaginal cancer.

It is standard practice for your doctor to examine your vagina, groin and pelvic area.

You may undergo a thin-prep test to check the cells inside the vagina and cervix as part of the physical examination.

During the examination, Dr Farrell will use a magnifying instrument called a colposcope to look at your vagina, cervix and vulva. She may also take a tissue sample (biopsy) to check for cell abnormalities.

If the tests described above show that you have vaginal cancer, further tests may be needed to find out if the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. These tests may include a CT scan, MRI scan, or PET CT scan, a blood test, cystoscopy (day stay operation to look in the bladder), or proctoscopy (to look on the lower bowel). These tests will tell you the stage of the cancer. Staging describes the size of the cancer and if and how far it has spread beyond the vagina.

All cancer results are reviewed weekly by expert gynaecological pathologists and presented by Dr Farrell at a multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting to ensure the highest possible standards of care are maintained.

Knowing the stage of the cancer helps Dr Farrell decide on the most appropriate treatment. Treatment may involve surgery, radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy.

Follow Up

Dr Farrell will coordinate follow up after treatment is completed, with 3 monthly reviews for 2 years, then 6 monthly reviews for a further 3 years at minimum.

For more information follow the link to the Cancer Council Booklet for Vulvar and Vaginal cancer information on this website.