DURATION: Up to 30 minutes
ANAESTHESIA/PAIN RELIEF: Local anaesthetic if a biopsy is required.
RECOVERY TIME: Sexual intercourse should be avoided for 7 days following a biopsy.
SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS: None
SUITABLE FOR: Women who have a previous history of abnormal cells affecting the vulva, cervix or vagina; those who experience unexplained vaginal pain, discomfort or bleeding, either after intercourse or at any other point.
Although cancer of the vagina is rare, it’s important to recognise its existence and to educate yourself on many of the symptoms that could indicate its presence in your body.
Mainly affecting women over 40 years of age, vaginal cancer can describe any form of cancer that has its origins in the vagina or birth canal. It is more common in women who have experienced cervical abnormalities, such as cervical cancer, or abnormal changes to the vulva.
Vaginal cancer may arise in those who have had endometrial cancer, a condition that may reoccur in the vagina. In this situation the cancer is a recurrence of the endometrial cancer and not a primary vaginal cancer.
As a woman, the prevention and early detection of vaginal cancer can be reliant on you being aware of any changes to your vagina. If you have bleeding after the menopause, new lumps or soreness it is crucial to seek out medical attention.
What is vaginal cancer?
Many people often use vagina as a general term for their reproductive organs, and it’s in instances such as this that they are normally referring to their vulva. In medical terms, the vagina is the organ that links the vulva (the external female sex organs) to the cervix, or the neck of the womb. Vaginal cancer can, therefore, be described as cancer that only stems from this area of the body.
What are the symptoms of vaginal cancer?
Vaginal cancer shares some of the symptoms of vulval cancer, including pain when urinating, areas of soreness in the vagina and frequent unexpected or unexplained bleeding. This type of bleeding can occur during or after sexual intercourse, between periods and at any time after you’ve gone through the menopause. The presence of a solid lump or growth in the vagina could also be suggestive of vaginal cancer, with a rise in pelvic pain also potentially attributable to this condition. As with most things, experiencing these symptoms can be scary, so it’s important to remember that they could well be indicative of a less serious, problem.
Unfortunately, there are times when those who have vaginal cancer do not present with any symptoms. In such situations, the development of vaginal cancer may be attributable to previous cervical abnormalities. A precancerous condition known as vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN), which describes a process in which abnormal cells can develop on the vaginal skin (mucosa) is a common precursor of vaginal cancer.
Screening for vaginal cancer
There is no formal screening programme for vaginal cancer. If you have any of the symptoms discussed above or a previous history of vulval or cervical abnormalities, it is advisable to have regular assessments via a vaginoscopy.
A vaginoscopy is a type of colposcopy that involves the careful examination of the vagina for the presence of any abnormal cells.
If any abnormalities are detected, then a local anaesthetic will be administered to this area and a biopsy will be performed. This biopsy will be sent for urgent assessment and the results will be available within the space of a few days.
What happens next?
Once you have your results, you will receive a more concrete diagnosis for the symptoms you’ve been experiencing. If you have been diagnosed with a form of vaginal cancer, you will be told what you need to do next, and this may involve going through further tests to determine how advanced this cancer is and choosing which sort of treatment is right for you.
Few gynaecologists are as skilled in their field as Mr Gardner. He has been colposcopy-accredited for many years and has conducted such procedures for over two decades. Mr Gardner is also a dual-accredited gynaecologist and is experienced in all areas of gynaecological oncology. This impressive medical background ensures that he is fully qualified in the assessment of various vaginal lesions and can perform a range of complex surgeries for the treatment of vaginal cancer.
Do my symptoms mean I have vaginal cancer?
The majority of patients who demonstrate symptoms of vaginal cancer have benign conditions such as candidiasis (thrush) or genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM). These conditions can be effectively treated by Mr Gardner.
In cases where precancerous abnormalities or vaginal cancer are detected, further treatment will be required.
Why is vaginal cancer screening not widely available?
Like vulval cancer, vaginal cancer is a fairly uncommon form of cancer and affects far less women than conditions like cervical cancer. It is normal for those who have been assessed for changes to their cervix to be investigated for any vaginal abnormalities at the time of their colposcopy.
What further tests will I need to undergo if cancer is detected?
You may need to undergo a series of imaging tests, including CT, MRI and PET-CT scans if there is evidence that the cancer has spread outside of the vagina. These scans will be used to determine which form of treatment you will be required to undergo going forward.
Vaginal cancer treatment can be carried out through surgery, radiotherapy or a combination of the two.
How serious is vaginal cancer?
Vaginal cancer is a rare form of cancer that offers a high survival rate if it is caught early. If symptoms are neglected, the chances of making a full recovery are reduced. Unfortunately, there are times when the disease presents itself after it has spread to other areas of the body. Again, this reduces the chances of it being cured, so it is always crucial to have any symptoms assessed as soon as you experience them.
If the symptoms of vaginal cancer are familiar to you, then please call Mr Gardner on NUMBER NEEDED today.