Vaginal cancer

Know More About Vaginal cancer

The vagina is a muscular tube connecting the female’s uterus with the outer genitals. Vaginal cancer is a rare type of cancer that occurs in the vagina. It accounts for about 2% of female genital cancers. Vaginal cancer most commonly occurs in the cells lining the surface of the vagina.

Causes

  • Human papillomavirus(HPV)- sexually transmitted infection is the most common cause of vaginal cancer.
  • Increasing age- with increasing age, the chances of developing vaginal cancer also increase. Most people who are diagnosed with vaginal cancer are older than 60.
  •  Hysterectomy- if the patient had a previous record of hysterectomy
  • Weakened immune system
  • Exposure to HPV through sexual intercourse
  • Vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN) increases the risk of vaginal cancer.

Types

Based on the type of cancer cells, vaginal cancer is divided into the following:

Vaginal squamous cell carcinoma

It is the most common type of vaginal cancer. This type of vaginal cancer occurs in the squamous cells lining the walls of the vagina.

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Vaginal sarcoma

This type of vaginal cancer occurs in the connective tissue cells present in the walls of the vagina.

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Vaginal melanoma

Vaginal melanoma develops in the melanocytes of the vagina.

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Vaginal adenocarcinoma

This type of vaginal cancer begins in the glandular cells present on the surface of the vagina.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Bleeding during or after sexual intercourse
  • Bleeding between menstruation
  • Watery vaginal discharge
  • Painful urination
  • Constipation
  •  Swollen legs
  • Blood in urine or stool
  • Back pain
  • Pelvic pain
  •  Itching in the vagina
  • Lump or mass in the vagina

Diagnosis

Usually, a pelvic examination helps determine the doctor if the conditions are cancerous or not. A device called a speculum is inserted to broaden the vaginal canal that allows doctors to check for abnormalities in either cervix or vagina.

A Pap test can also be performed by the doctor, which involves collecting cells from the cervix (Pap smear) to determine instances of cervical cancer, if any. Vaginal cancer can also be detected often with its help.

Colposcopy is done to inspect and look at the vagina with the help of a special magnifying instrument that helps look clearly at the infections if any.

Another possible way to find out about vaginal cancer is to perform a biopsy. A biopsy helps remove any suspected tissues and their examination under a microscope.

The imaging tests like MRI, X-Rays, CT Scans, and PET effectively get thorough images of the body organs that will help look at the abnormalities, if any.

Medical procedures like proctoscopy and cystoscopy involve us of tiny cameras that are inserted to look inside the rectum and bladder, respectively.

Side effects of such procedures

  • Once the surgery has been performed, the human body becomes susceptible to various side effects. These can be major or minor, depending on the immunity and strength of the body. There could be urinary tract infections, pain, fatigue, nausea, and anxiety are also among some of the common symptoms.
  • Radiotherapy may induce some skin changes in the area that is under treatment. This may include some redness, peeling, and blistering. The common symptoms are vomiting and nausea. There could be bowel obstruction, discomfort, and often bleeding while urinating.
  • There could be a sore mouth, diarrhea, hair loss, infections in the body, issues in the menstrual cycle, infertility, or premature menopause once chemotherapy has been done. Appetite loss, easy bruising, and feeling sick are also among some most commonly occurring symptoms.

Treatments

Various treatments opted for treating vaginal cancer are:

Surgeries

  • Usually, when the cancer cells are present on the outer lining of the vagina, the affected area can be removed along with some of the surrounding healthy tissues.
  • The doctor can perform either radical vaginectomy(removing the entire vagina) or partial vaginectomy(removing a part of the vagina). Depending on how much cancer has spread, the specialist may remove ovaries and uterus, called hysterectomy, or remove surrounding lymph nodes (lymphadenectomy) accompanied by vaginectomy.
  • Pelvic Exenteration: It is an advanced surgery that involves the removal of most of the organs in the pelvic region.

Radiation Therapy

The external radiation involves a machine pointed at the body that targets the cancer cells and kills them. During internal radiation, the devices containing radioactive material are placed inside the vagina that releases radioactive beams for a set amount of time and is removed threafter.

Chemotherapy and Clinical Trials

Chemotherapy uses specific chemicals to target and kills cancer cells. Based on the type and stage of cancer, the doctor determines the intensity of the treatment. In case of failures in treatment, clinical trials may opt where new treatment methods that are tried and tested.

Why to chose Ayurveda?

The use of Ayurveda has increased in recent years and has proved useful in many treatments. Some remedies in Ayurveda for vaginal cancer include using Ashwagandha or Withania somnifera. It is a great antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties that help fight the cancer cells or prevent their formation.

Use of techniques like Uttara Basti, Yoni Puran karma, and Yoni prakshalan karma can also be done to treat cancerous situations. Another herb like Symplocus Racemosa could be used in the form of extracts or capsules, or powders. It is useful in providing health and strength to female reproductive organs.

Shatavari is another medicinal herb that is considered good for female sexual disorders. Saraka Indica, and Commiphora Mukul, are also some of the Ayurvedic herbs that require use in such treatments.