Vaginal Cancer (cont.)
In this Article
What is the treatment for vaginal cancer?
There are different types of treatment for patients with vaginal cancer.
Different types of treatments are available for patients with vaginal cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. Before starting treatment, patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.
Clinical trials are taking place in many parts of the country. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site. Choosing the most appropriate cancer treatment is a decision that ideally involves the patient, family, and health care team.
Three types of standard treatment are used:
Surgery is the most common treatment of vaginal cancer. The following surgical procedures may be used:
Skin grafting may follow surgery, to repair or reconstruct the vagina. Skin grafting is a surgical procedure in which skin is moved from one part of the body to another. A piece of healthy skin is taken from a part of the body that is usually hidden, such as the buttock or thigh, and used to repair or rebuild the area treated with surgery.
Even if the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may be given radiation therapy after surgery to kill any hidden cancer cells that are left. Cancer cells are very small and the doctor is unable to see individual cells. Treatment given after the surgery, to increase the chances of a cure, is called adjuvant therapy.
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can affect cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the spinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.
Topical chemotherapy for squamous cell vaginal cancer may be applied to the vagina in a cream or lotion.
New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials. These include the following:
Radiosensitizers are drugs that make tumor cells more sensitive to radiation therapy. Combining radiation therapy with radiosensitizers may kill more tumor cells.
This summary section refers to specific treatments under study in clinical trials, but it may not mention every new treatment being studied. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/18/2014
Viewers share their comments
Vaginal Cancer - Risks and Causes Question: If known, what was the cause or your vaginal cancer? Did you have a known risk factor?
Vaginal Cancer - Signs and Symptoms Question: What were your signs and symptoms associated with vaginal cancer?
Vaginal Cancer - Diagnosis Question: Please discuss the tests and procedures you received that led to a diagnosis of vaginal cancer.
Vaginal Cancer - Treatment Question: What kinds of treatment, surgery, or medication did you receive for vaginal cancer?