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    Vaginal tumors

    Vaginal cancer; Cancer - vagina; Tumor - vaginal

    A vaginal tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue in the vagina, a female reproductive organ.

    Causes

    Most cancerous vaginal tumors occur when another cancer, such as cervical or endometrial cancer, spreads. This is called secondary vaginal cancer.

    Primary vaginal cancer is very rare. Most primary vaginal cancers start in skin cells called squamous cells. This is called squamous cell cancer. The other types are adenocarcinoma (6%), melanoma (3%), and sarcoma (3%).

    The cause of squamous cell carcinoma of the vagina is unknown. However, a history of cervical cancer is common in women with squamous cell carcinoma of the vagina.

    Most womenwith squamous cell cancer of the vagina are over 50.

    Adenocarcinomas of the vagina more commonly affect younger women. The average age at which adenocarcinoma of the vagina is diagnosed is 19. Women whose mothers took diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent miscarriages during the first 3 months of pregnancy are more likely to develop vaginal adenocarcinoma.

    Sarcoma botryoides of the vagina is a rare type of cancer that mainly occurs in infancy and early childhood.

    Symptoms

    • Bleeding after sexual intercourse
    • Painless vaginal bleeding and discharge
    • Pain in the pelvis or vagina

    Some women have no symptoms.

    Exams and Tests

    In patients with no symptoms, the cancer may be found during a routine pelvic examination and Pap smear.

    Other tests to diagnose vaginal tumors include:

    • Biopsy
    • Colposcopy

    Other tests that may be done include:

    • Chest x-ray
    • CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis

    Treatment

    Treatment of vaginal cancer depends on the type of cancer, and how far the disease has spread.

    Surgery is sometimes used to remove the cancer, but most patients are treated with radiation. If the tumor is cervical cancer that has spread to the vagina, then radiation and chemotherapy are both given.

    Sarcoma botryoides may be treated with a combination of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation.

    Support Groups

    You can ease the stress of illness by joining a support group whose members share common experiences and problems. See: Cancer resources

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    How well patients with vaginal cancer do depends on the stage of disease and the specific type of tumor.

    Possible Complications

    Vaginal cancer may spread to other areas of the body. Complications can occur from radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you notice bleeding after intercourse or have persistent vaginal bleeding or discharge.

    Prevention

    There are no definite ways to prevent this cancer. You can increase your chances of early detection by getting regular yearly pelvic examinations and Pap smears.

    References

    Dotters DJ, Katz VL. Malignant diseases of the vagina: intraepithelial neoplasia, carcinoma, sarcoma. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby; 2007:chap 31.

    Jhingran A, Russell AH, Seiden MV, et al. Cancers of the cervix, vulva, and vagina. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, Kastan MB, McKenna WG, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 91.

    Markman M. Gynecologic cancers. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 205.

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      A Closer Look

        Self Care

          Tests for Vaginal tumors

            Review Date: 2/26/2012

            Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

            The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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