Although it is not as common as breast or lung cancer, vaginal cancer is just as dangerous. Every woman should definitely be well-educated on the subject, so she could be aware of the symptoms she needs to look out for.
What are the different types of vaginal cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, there are many types of vaginal cancer, depending on the type of cell. The most common one is known as squamous cell carcinoma. It starts in the squamous cells,\ and often arises in the top parts of the vagina. In case it’s left unnoticed or not treated properly, it can affect other tissues nearby, including other parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver, and bones.
Women aged 50 or older are also vulnerable to adenocarcinoma. This type of vaginal cancer starts at the adenocarcinomas gland cells and accounts for about 10% of all vaginal cancer cases. Younger women are more likely to experience clear cell adenocarcinoma.
Melanoma and Sarcoma are other, rarer types. The melanoma type affects the pigment-producing cells, while sarcoma affects the cells of bones, muscles, or connective tissue.
Who is at risk of vaginal cancer?
Vaginal cancer usually develops in people suffering from human papillomavirus(HPV). According to Cancer.Net, 75% of the vaginal cancers detected from 2008 to 2012 were indeed a result of HPV. Other conditions that affect your immune system also make you vulnerable to vaginal cancer, CDC claims.
Furthermore, certain habits like smoking and drinking can add up to your risk of vaginal cancer. Having cervical precancer or cervical cancer could also increase your liability to the disease. It could also lead to VAIN – vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia, which can turn into invasive vaginal cancer in some women. VAIN is common in women who have had their uterus removed.
What are the most common symptoms of vaginal cancer?
1. Abnormal discharge
Although this is a common symptom many women generally notice, its seriousnesses shouldn’t be neglected. An abnormal discharge could indicate not only vaginal cancer, but also other types of gynecological cancers including cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, or uterine cancer. Even though this symptom could be caused by less severe reasons, it definitely needs to be taken into consideration.
2. Unusual vaginal bleeding
Any bleeding that is not related to your menstrual cycle is considered unusual and needs to be looked after. Regardless of your age, if you experience unusual vaginal bleeding, you should consult with your doctor and get it checked. It often happens to women after they have crossed the stage of menopause. This is one of the most symptoms of vaginal cancer.
3. Discomfort during sexual intercourse
Experiencing pain during sex should never be ignored. If you feel some kind of discomfort while being intimate with your partner, especially if it’s in your pelvic area, have in mind this could be a symptom of vaginal cancer.
4. Pain in your pelvis area
This is a serious symptom you could experience in later stages of vaginal cancer. Generally, it occurs when the cancer cells start spreading to other areas of your body. If you experience aches or harsh pressure in your pelvis or your abdomen beneath your navel, it’s best if you seek medical help as soon as possible.
5. Lumps in your vagina
If you notice an unusual mass in your vagina, it’s important to get it checked out. While it could be caused by a number of reasons, one of the most dangerous ones is indeed vaginal cancer. Another reason for a lump in your vagina could be a vaginal cyst, which is also worth serious attention.
6. Changes in urination
Unusually frequent urination is also considered a common symptom of vaginal cancer. It can often be accompanied by pain while urinating or even a few drops of blood. However, there are other, less critical reasons for changes in urination such as consuming highly caffeinated beverages or an increase in fluid intake in general.
7. Changes in bowel function
Along with changes in urination, an unusual bowel movement should also be looked at when it comes to vaginal cancer. As the disease progresses, you may experience chronic constipation, black/tarry stools, and a feeling as if the bowels have not been completely emptied after going to the bathroom.
8. Back pain
Experiencing back pain is a symptom that occurs in the later stages of vaginal cancer, as it starts spreading in other tissues of the body.
According to the American Cancer Society, swelling in the legs is also a common indicator of vaginal cancer.
In case you experience one or more of these symptoms, contact your doctor as soon as possible. Remember that the sooner the problem is located, the sooner you could start treating it.