DefinitionA vaginal tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue in the vagina, a female reproductive organ.
Alternative NamesVaginal cancer; Cancer - vagina; Tumor - vaginal
Causes, incidence, and risk factorsMost cancerous vaginal tumors occur when another cancer, such as cervical or endometrial cancer, spreads. This is called secondary vaginal cancer.Primary vaginal cancer is very rare. Most primary vaginal cancers start in skin cells called squamous cells. This is called squamous cell cancer. The other types are adenocarcinoma (6%), melanoma (3%), and sarcoma (3%).The cause of squamous cell carcinoma of the vagina is unknown. However, a history of cervical cancer is common in women with squamous cell carcinoma of the vagina.
Most women with squamous cell cancer of the vagina are over 50. Adenocarcinomas of the vagina more commonly affect younger women. The average age at which adenocarcinoma of the vagina is diagnosed is 19. Women whose mothers took diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent miscarriages during the first 3 months of pregnancy are more likely to develop vaginal adenocarcinoma.Sarcoma botryoides of the vagina is a rare type of cancer that mainly occurs in infancy and early childhood.
SymptomsBleeding after sexual intercoursePainless vaginal bleeding and dischargePain in the pelvis or vaginaSome women have no symptoms.
Signs and testsIn patients with no symptoms, the cancer may be found during a routine pelvic examination and Pap smear.Other tests to diagnose vaginal tumors include:BiopsyColposcopyOther tests that may be done include:Chest x-rayCT scan of the abdomen and pelvis
TreatmentTreatment of vaginal cancer depends on the type of cancer, and how far the disease has spread.Surgery is sometimes used to remove the cancer, but most patients are treated with radiation. If the tumor is cervical cancer that has spread to the vagina, then radiation and chemotherapy are both given.Sarcoma botryoides may be treated with a combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation.
Support GroupsYou can ease the stress of illness by joining a support group whose members share common experiences and problems. See: Cancer resources
Expectations (prognosis)How well patients with vaginal cancer do depends on the stage of disease and the specific type of tumor.
ComplicationsVaginal cancer may spread to other areas of the body. Complications can occur from radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy.
Calling your health care providerCall for an appointment with your health care provider if you notice bleeding after intercourse or have persistent vaginal bleeding or discharge.
PreventionThere are no definite ways to prevent this cancer. You can increase your chances of early detection by getting regular yearly pelvic examinations and Pap smears.
ReferencesDotters DJ, Katz VL. Malignant diseases of the vagina: intraepithelial neoplasia, carcinoma, sarcoma. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby; 2007:chap 31.Jhingran A, Russell AH, Seiden MV, et al. Cancers of the cervix, vulva, and vagina. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, Kastan MB, McKenna WG, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 91.Markman M. Gynecologic cancers. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 205.