The region between the cervix and the vulva is called a vagina. The vaginal canal is comprised of squamous cells; the connective tissue of the vaginal wall under the epithelium consists of muscles, lymphatic vessels and nerves. The vaginal dryness is prevented with mucus produced by the glands near the vaginal opening. Vaginal cancer can develop in different parts of the vagina, i.e. different cellular areas. The most common vaginal cancers occur in the vaginal canal with squamous cells.
Types of Vaginal Cancer
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma:9 out of 10 vaginal cancers are seen in squamous cell carcinoma. This type of cancer, which starts in squamous cells forming the epithelial lining of the vaginal canal, usually occurs near the cervix. If untreated, it can spread to the vaginal wall, surrounding tissues, lung, liver and bones. Before this slowly progressing cancer, normal cells begins to change. Precancerous changes lead to the formation of cancerous cells over time.
- Adenocarcinoma:It usually occurs in women over the age of 50. It is rarely seen compared to squamous cell carcinoma.
Except from these two main types of vaginal cancer, melanoma and sarcoma can also occur in the vagina. Vaginal cancers can occur directly in the vagina, or the cervix, uterus, rectum or bladder cancer can occur in some people with the spread of the vagina.
Causes of Vaginal Cancer
The causes of vaginal cancer are not clearly known, but the presence of risk factors for vaginal cancer is accepted. Factors that increase the risk of developing vaginal cancer can be listed as follows:
- The risk of vaginal cancer may increase with advancing age.
- HPV virusmay lead to increase the risk of vaginal cancer.
- Cervical cancer may increase the risk of vaginal cancer.
- Smoking and alcohol use may increase the risk of vaginal cancer.
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES) hormone drug used for preventing miscarriages between 1940 and 1971 is among the risk factors for vaginal cancer.
Symptoms of Vaginal Cancer
The symptoms of vaginal cancer may not lead the person to feel symptom if the cancerous cells are not yet spread or do not have too aggressive growth characteristics. Since invasive vaginal cancers grow rapidly and progress deeper into the vagina wall, this may lead to complaints such as excessive bleeding after sexual intercourse, vaginal discharge, mass formation in the vagina and pain during sexual intercourse. Along with the progression of cancer, symptoms may include constipation, pelvic pain, back pain, swelling in the legs and difficulty in urination. These symptoms are not definitive signs of cancer, infections can cause similar problems. However, women who have similar symptoms should immediately contact their gynecologists.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Vaginal Cancer
The medical history of women with vaginal cancer symptoms is evaluated; gynecological examination and PAP Smear test should be performed. In the event of any abnormality in the smear test results, the cervix and vagina are extensively examined by using the diagnostic method of colposcopy. If all the examination results indicate a negative outcome, the diagnosis is clarified by biopsy. Imaging tests are used to determine how far cancer has spread in case of the diagnosis of cancer.
In accordance with the information obtained from the patient, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgical treatment methods can be used by evaluating the vaginal cancer stage and the general health of the patient.
The surgical treatment method for vaginal cancer is planned according to the size, location and stage of cancer of cancerous cells.
Different operations can be performed, such as regional excision, vaginectomy (removal of the vagina), Trachelectomy (removal of the cervix), Hysterectomy (removal of part of the vagina, uterus and cervix with the ovaries and fallopian tubes).
We, as KADOMER, have continued our services with our expert staff in İzmir since 1995 for the prevention of gynecological diseases and cancers, and the management of the diagnosis and treatment processes with maximum efficiency.