Cancer Q&A for April 14

What is vaginal cancer?

Vaginal cancer is cancer of the vagina or birth canal. It is uncommon and makes up only 1-2 percent of gynecological cancers.

Most vaginal cancers occur in the upper third of the vagina. The most common type of vaginal cancer is squamous carcinoma and it accounts for 85 percent of vaginal cancer cases. Other types include adenocarcinoma, melanoma and sarcoma.

According to the National Cancer Institute, vaginal cancer can be cured if found in the early stages. However, like most cancers, symptoms of vaginal cancer occur after the cancer has advanced. Sometimes vaginal cancer can be asymptomatic, meaning there are no symptoms. It is very important for women to stay on track and get their annual pap smears because this test may help detect vaginal cancer or other abnormalities. A biopsy (removing cells from the vagina and cervix) or a colposcopy (a scope instrument used to magnify and check the vagina and cervix for abnormal masses) are two other procedures that can be performed to detect vaginal cancer.

Some symptoms of vaginal cancer can include: abnormal vaginal bleeding, abnormal vaginal discharge, pain during sex, pain in the pelvic area, lump in the vagina, difficult urination and/or constipation.

Remember that these symptoms could also be signs of another condition, so it is important to consult with your doctor about any problems you may be experiencing.

For more information contact Courtney Britton, librarian at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge at (225) 927-2273, cbritton@cancerservices.org , or visit the Education Center at 550 Lobdell Ave.

รค Internet Resources:

NCI: Vaginal Cancer

cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/vaginal

This column is presented as a service by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, a United Way affiliate.