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Vaginal Cancer

Vaginal cancer usually starts in the lining of the vagina.  It is most commonly diagnosed in women over 60 with abnormal bleeding and treated with radiation.  Having had HPV infection or cervical cancer are also risk factors.  The good news is that this cancer is very rare and accounts for only 3% of gynecologic cancers.  This is no consolation to the estimated 2,000 women who will be affected this year, however.

Also no consolation:  there are no screening methods to detect vaginal cancer and no known ways to prevent it, other than practicing safe-sex recommendations for reducing HPV infection risk. Early diagnosis is important to minimize the need for radical surgery and radiation; the only way to diagnose vaginal cancer early is with routine internal gynecologic exams.  Pap smears of the vagina every three years in women who have had hysterectomies are important for this reason.

Advances in treatment have focused on ways to improve  the dosage and administration of combinations of therapies and minimizing exposure when radiation is required. 

Created: 11/11/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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