Vaginal cancer is a rare form of cancer that builds in the vaginal tissues, in the female sex. Vagina is the narrow, stretchable passage that extends from the cervix to the outside of the female body. It is approximately 2 to 4 inches long. It is the birth canal.
Risk Factors of Vaginal Cancer
Albeit there are no standard reasons for vaginal cancer, the researchers have identified a few risk factors that can induce vaginal cancer. As the name indicates, a risk factor refers to the likeliness of the disease that one may have developed without any guarantee. So it’s a high positive chance.
Risk factors for vaginal cancer include:
– HPV [Human papillomavirus] infection:
HPV is a conglomeration of 100 viruses and more, a few of that are sexually transmitted. It also risks a person’s chance of developing other forms of cancer in the reproductive system.
The most common HPV strains may generate warts (papillomas), whilst the other HPV type infections will have no visible symptoms. HPV 16 and HPV 18 are closely associated with developing cancer. Women under the age of 30, especially, are at the greatest risk of inviting HPV infection. Proper combat against the HPV will help the younger women lessen their chances of falling prey to vaginal cancer.
– Diethylstilbestrol (DES):
The mothers of those women who were introduced to DES, a hormonal drug to protect from miscarriage, are at higher risks for building on a specific subtype of vaginal cancer. It is called clear cell adenocarcinoma. Any woman’s mother that had consumed this drug in the first 16 weeks of their pregnancy is prone to vaginal cancer. However, the studies have discovered that by far, 1 in 1,000 women whose mother had consumed the drug have ovulated on this type of cancer. It increases the risks for these women to also develop precancerous high-grade vaginal dysplasia known as vaginal adenosis.
– Diagnosed with cervical cancer:
A previous history of cervical cancer or the medical term, cervical dysplasia – a precancerous condition – holds credit for the risk of causing vaginal cancer.
The ratio says that the women who smoke are prone to develop vaginal cancer relatively those that don’t smoke.
– HIV/AIDS infection:
There are high risks of developing vaginal cancer through sexual intercourse with many partners. It doesn’t necessarily have to be with the women. Sexual intercourse with a single man who has been in contact with a lot of other women will also induce vaginal cancer.
Symptoms of Vaginal Cancer
It is almost close to impossible to detect the symptoms of vaginal cancer in its early stages. As the cancer advances, the symptoms start to show one by one.
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding – after sexual intercourse or the menopause
- Watery vaginal discharge
- Pain whilst urinating
- Frequent urination
- Pelvic pain
- A lump or mass in your vagina
Types of vaginal cancer
Vaginal cancer is classified into multiple types based on where and what type of cancer cell began to develop. The types include:
- Vaginal squamous cell carcinoma – usually begins in the thin, flat cells – that is called the squamous cells – lining the surface of the vagina. It is the most common type
- Vaginal sarcoma – develops in the muscle cells or the connective tissue cells that line the walls of the vagina
- Vaginal adenocarcinoma – starts in the glandular cells on the covering of the vagina
- Vaginal melanoma – generates in the pigment-producing cells – that are called melanocytes – of the vagina
Diagnosis of Vaginal Cancer
If there are any suspicions of vaginal cancer, advance evaluation is mandatory to re-confirm the presence or the absence of cancer. The findings from a pelvic exam or/and Pap smear are generally the first evaluation procedure to detect cancer.
A colposcopy will then be carried out to allow the doctor to see the cervix and vaginal walls more accurately. A colposcopy with the aid of a microscope-like instrument named a colposcope to search for the abnormalities. During this process, a vaginal biopsy will be done on every suspicious area. A biopsy is nothing but warding off a sample of tissue from the part and in this case, the cervix to be studied under a microscope. A vaginal biopsy is done really quickly without the help of an anesthetic.
Upon the confirmation of cancer with the biopsy, the stage of the disease can be determined. It is nothing but the categorization of how far cancer has transmitted to the nearby tissues. Based on the severity, further diagnosis can be determined.