Vaginal cancer is a rare cancer in the US, as fewer than 5,000 women each year are diagnosed with it. Most vaginal cancers (around 70 percent) begin in the cells lining the vagina and start as precancerous changes and develop into cancer over time. Vaginal cancer is often curable, especially when it is caught in the early stages.
Early vaginal cancer usually does not cause symptoms. However, most women experience symptoms, such as abnormal vaginal bleeding, as vaginal cancer gets worse. Other common signs and symptoms include:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Mass or lump in the vagina
- Painful sex
As the disease advances, other symptoms like pain with urination, pelvic or back pain, constipation, and swelling in the legs can develop.
You should see your gynecologist to discuss your symptoms and receive a comprehensive diagnosis. At Dignity Health Cancer Institute of Greater Sacramento, our gynecologic oncology specialists and nurse navigators offer comprehensive care for vaginal cancer in Sacramento and surrounding areas. Find a Doctor near you today.
Causes of Vaginal Cancer
Up to 90 percent of vaginal cancers and precancers result from infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), but only a small percentage of women with HPV will develop vaginal cancer. Other risk factors for vaginal cancer include:
- Age 50 and older
- HIV infection
- Personal history of cervical cancer or uterine cancer
- Diethylstilbestrol exposure
- Health problems with the uterus requiring hysterectomy
Treating & Preventing Vaginal Cancer with Dignity Health
Your treatment plan for vaginal cancer will usually depend on the stage of vaginal cancer. Precancerous changes may only require topical treatments or laser therapy to remove the abnormal cells. Surgery and radiation therapy are the main treatments once cancer develops. Our oncologists are equipped with the latest technologies and methods, so you can be confident that you will receive top-quality care.
HPV vaccines make vaginal cancer highly preventable. Women are encouraged to be vaccinated against HPV up until age 26. Other prevention strategies include getting regular pelvic exams and Pap tests, quitting smoking, and avoiding HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) by practicing safe sex. Dignity Health Cancer Institute of Greater Sacramento offers complete care for patients with vaginal cancer in Sacramento and the surrounding areas.