A vaginal tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue in the vagina, a female reproductive organ.
Most 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. The rest are adenocarcinoma (6%), melanoma (3%), and sarcoma (3%).
The cause of squamous cell carcinoma of the vagina is unknown. However, up to 30% of patients have had cervical cancer.
About 75% of patients 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, which was prescribed to prevent miscarriages) during the first 3 months of pregnancy are at increased risk for developing adenocarcinoma.
Sarcoma botryoides of the vagina is a rare type of cancer that mainly occurs in infancy and early childhood.
In patients with no symptoms, the cancer may be found during a routine pelvic examination and Pap smear.
Other tests to diagnose vaginal tumors include:
Other tests that may be done include:
Treatment 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.
You can ease the stress of illness by joining a support group whose members share common experiences and problems.
How well patients with vaginal cancer do depends on the stage of disease and the specific type of tumor.
Vaginal cancer may spread to other areas of the body. Complications can occur from radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy.
There 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.