Vaginal cancer is a rare cancer, accounting for only 0.3% of all possible cancers. primarily affects women over the age of 70. The causes are often unknown. An infection with particular types of the HPV virus (human papillomavirus) is deemed to be a risk factor. The treatment focuses on surgical removal and radiotherapy.

What exactly is vaginal cancer?

With a frequency of 0.5–1 in 100,000, vaginal cancer is a rare disease. It usually involves cancer of the mucous membrane (squamous cell carcinoma) in the vagina.

Causes and risk factors

Cancer of the gland cells (adenocarcinoma) or melanoma is sometimes behind vaginal cancer.

The exact cause of the disease is largely unknown. Infections with particular types of the HPV virus are deemed to be a risk factor. Women who have had their uterus removed also have an increased risk of a tumour in the vagina. Cancer cells often form here at the base of the vagina. Vaginal cancer affects elderly women in particular.

Symptoms of vaginal cancer

Vaginal cancer does not cause any symptoms for a long time, so it is often only detected late. A brownish-bloody discharge or bleeding after sexual intercourse can be indications of vaginal cancer. Such symptoms should therefore be clarified at the gynaecologist. However, they are usually only harmless and not caused by cancer. If a patient has advanced vaginal cancer, they may have pain in the lower abdomen or difficulties when urinating and defecating.

Diagnosis of vaginal cancer

Vaginal cancer is diagnosed with a gynaecological examination and with a vaginal endoscopy. During the colonoscopy This involves taking tissue samples of suspicious areas and examining them for cancerous cells. Ultrasound examinations and other procedures such as an MRI or computed tomography are also used as a form of clarification.

Treatment of vaginal cancer

The treatment of vaginal cancer is based on the state and location of the tumour. If possible, the tumour will be surgically removed.

Depending on how extensive the tumour is, the entire vagina must be removed in certain circumstances. You can find out more about the surgical treatment options in the vaginal surgery section. Radiotherapy is generally carried out after surgical treatment.

Sometimes radiotherapy is also the only treatment option if surgery is not feasible. Chemotherapy does not make a difference in patients with vaginal cancer, unless there are melanomas involved.

Prevention of vaginal cancer

One of the possible factors that can promote vaginal cancer is HPV disease, which is widespread in the adult population and can be transmitted through sexual intercourse. As a young person, it is advisable to have an HPV vaccination at an early stage, i.e. before the first sexual intercourse. You can get information about HPV vaccination from your doctor.

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