Vaginal cancer

Vaginal cancer has a good chance of being cured if it’s diagnosed early but if it spreads beyond the vaginal area, it’s more difficult to treat.

 

What is vaginal cancer?

Vaginal cancer is cancer that begins in a woman’s vagina, the passage linking the vulva to the neck of the womb (cervix). It’s a rare type of cancer that mostly affects women aged 45 or over.
 

Causes of vaginal cancer

No one knows precisely what causes vaginal cancer. Some things make it more likely, including:
•  A weakened immune system
•  Cervical cancer or precancerous cells in the cervix

•  Changes in the cells that line the vagina, including vaginal intra-epithelial neoplasia (VAIN)
•  Having a common sexually transmitted virus known as human papillomavirus (HPV)
•  Having the HIV virus
•  If your mother was prescribed a drug called diethystilbestrol (DES) while she was carrying you
•  Radiation therapy to the pelvis
•  Your age – it’s more common in older women

Symptoms of vaginal cancer

It’s unusual to have any symptoms in the early stages of vaginal cancer. You may only discover you’re affected when you get the results of a routine cervical screening test. Diagnosing and treating it early means you have the best chance of recovery.
 

 

Symptoms can include:

 
 

A lump in your vagina

Abnormal bleeding- after sex, between periods or after menopause

Constipation for feeling as if you need to 'go', even when you've just been

Discharge that smells unpleasent

Itching in the vagina that doesn't go away

Pain when you urinate, needing to urinate more often or blood in the pee

Painful sex

Pelvic pain

All these symptoms can be caused by common conditions, such as infection. But if you’re worried, it’s a good idea to get it checked by your doctor. The sooner your cancer is detected, the better the chances of treating it successfully.

Tests and diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about the kind of symptoms you’ve had. They may give you an internal examination to check for anything unusual. You may also have a cervical screening test to check for abnormal cells in your cervix. In some cases, your doctor will refer you to a specialist (gynaecologist) for more tests. These include:

  • A biopsy- to take a small sample of cells for analysis
  • Blood tests
  • Colposcopy- to look inside the vagina
  • Scans including ultrasound, CT, MRI and PET-CT
  • Chest X-ray

Treatments we cover

Treatment for vaginal cancer depends on how advanced the cancer is. Possible treatment options include surgery, external radiotherapy, internal radiotherapy (brachytherapy) and chemotherapy.
 
 

Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

Read more

Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

Read more

Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

Read more

Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

Read more

Meet our doctors

Everything we do is focused on designing better care for our patients. With a network of 12 specialist oncology treatment centres across the UK, we provide the most up-to-date treatments and technology as standard.

We attract and retain some of the most experienced doctors in the country, who all have a passion for improving patient outcomes and specialise in the treatment of different types of cancer.

Meet our doctors

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Springfield Cancer Centre, Lawn Lane, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 7GU

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