Vagina and vulva cancer

Vagina and vulva cancer

What is cancer of the vagina and vulva?

Cancer is a disease in which certain cells of the body grow without control. The vulva represents the external part of the female genital organs, while the vagina is the organ that communicates the uterus with the vulva.

 

Prevention

Are there tests to detect cancer of the vagina and vulva at early stages?

There are no effective methods of prevention or early diagnosis of cancer of the vagina and vulva. In the periodic visit to the gynecologist, during the physical examination suspicious lesions could alert the gynecologist or even make a diagnosis.

 

It is important to remember that cytology is not useful for the early detection of vagina-vulva cancer. Its function is to detect pre-malignant lesions of the uterine cervix or cervical cancer at very early stages.

 

What are the risk factors for the development of cancer of the vagina and vulva?

While it is difficult to find a specific cause of vulvar and vaginal cancer, these are some of the main factors that could increase the risk:

  • Infection with the HPV virus. The possibilities of acquiring HPV are increased with:
    • The beginning of sexual relations at an early age
    • Multiple sexual partners
  • Other risk factors include:
  • Smoking: tobacco is a strong systemic and local immunosuppressant. Its effect is further enhanced if the woman has confirmed the presence of some type of HPV in blood.
  • Having had pre-malignant lesions in the cervix.
  • Immunosuppression: HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), diabetes.

The fact of having any of the risk factors mentioned above does not mean that the woman will have a vaginal vulvar cancer in the future; this only means that it is necessary to discuss this information with her gynecologist.

 

What do I have to do to prevent cancer of the vagina and vulva?

  • Vaccine against HPV virus: Most cancers of the vagina and vulva are caused by a sexually transmitted virus, the HPV virus. Currently, there are vaccines that protects against the most frequent subtypes of the virus.
  • Prevent the risk factors for contracting the HPV virus.
  • No Smoking

 

Diagnosis:

In the absence of effective forms of early detection for both types of tumors, the most important thing that the patient can do is attend the gynecologist in the presence of any of the following symptoms:

Symptoms of vaginal cancer:

  • Genital bleeding outside of the days of menstruation
  • Genital bleeding in menopause
  • Changes in the rhythm of bowel or bladder evacuation
  • Abdominal and / or pelvic pain and / or during sexual intercourse

Symptoms of vulvar cancer:

  • Vulvar pain
  • Itching / vulvar stinging
  • Changes in the skin color of the vulva
  • Presence of wart-like lesions

If the gynecologist detects any suspicious lesion, he/she will perform a physical examination, including a speculoscopy, and a biopsy can be done if necessary.

 

Speculoscopy: visualization of the vagina and uterine cervix by placing a speculum.

Vulvoscopy: is a procedure that consists in visualizing the skin of the magnified vulva with a high definition microscope. This technique is performed in the same consultation room without causing significant discomfort or pain.

Biopsy: performed in the same consultation room under local anesthesia.

Diagnosis of spread of the disease:

  • Computed axial tomography (CT): is performed routinely prior to any oncological treatment to determine the extent of the disease outside the affected organ: lymph nodes, abdominal organs or the thoracic cavity. It is usually done with oral and intravenous contrast.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): it is a useful complementary study for the diagnosis of the local extension of the disease.

 

Treatment:

The final decision of the best treatment for a particular case is based on the following factors:

  • The size of the tumor
  • The extent of the disease
  • Your global health status
  • Your preferences

 

Surgical treatment

Surgical treatment is usually the first therapeutic step to treat vaginal and vulvar cancer. The following procedures can be performed:

  • Partial vulvectomy: involves the removal of the tumor surrounded by 1 cm of normal tissue.
  • Radical vulvectomy: means the extirpation of the entire vulva and it is performed in cases of locally extended tumors.
  • Detection of the sentinel lymph node: consists of the injection with a tracer (technetium 99) in the region of the tumor that serves to identify the sentinel node in the inguinal region where the tumor would migrate, at the time of the surgical act. This lymph node (although they may be 2 or 3) is identified, extracted and analyzed at the same time by a specialized pathologist. If malignant cells are identified, all inguinal lymph nodes are removed.
  • Inguinal lymphadenectomy: consists of the removal of all the nodes of the inguinal region.

After surgery, pathologists will carefully review the material sent to obtain a final diagnosis and determine the true extent of the disease. Then, all the best postoperative therapeutic options are taken into consideration based on factors that include:

  • The intra-operative findings
  • The final histological result
  • The general conditions of each patient
  • The preferences of the patient and their relatives

The decision can be simply observation and follow-up, or it can include radiotherapy and / or chemotherapy according to each case.

Follow-up and surveillance:

The oncological follow-up period begins after the initial cancer treatment. Its main objective is to detect early possible recurrence of the disease.

Beyond adopting the most effective follow-up rules, we also pay special attention and interest in maintaining and increasing the quality of life of our patients and achieving a rapid and effective re-insertion in everyday life as before the diagnosis of their cancer.

Frequent questions

×

START TYPING AND PRESS ENTER TO SEARCH