One out of 1,100 women will develop vaginal cancer in her lifetime. Most cases of vaginal cancer can be cured if caught in the early stages. In fact, the American Cancer Society predicts that only 1,240 women will die of vaginal cancer this year. However, if you or someone close to you is one of those women, this cancer can lead to tragedy. Because vaginal cancer can usually be cured if it's detected early, it's important to understand this disease and its signs so you can avoid tragic circumstances.
What is vaginal cancer?
Vaginal cancer is when malignant (cancer) cells form in the vagina, the canal leading from the opening of the uterus to the outside of the body. There are two main types of this cancer:
Adenocarcinoma: This type of vaginal cancer is most commonly found in women under 30. It forms in the glandular cells that line the vagina. These cells produce and release mucus-like fluids in the vaginal canal. Adenocarcinoma can also spread to the lungs and lymph nodes.
Squamous cell carcinoma: Most commonly found in women who are older than 60, squamous cell carcinoma forms in the flat cells in the walls of the vagina. Generally, this cancer spreads slowly and stays in the vagina.
Vaginal cancers rarely exhibit symptoms in the early stages, however, the earlier you can detect the signs, the better. These symptoms can be easily ignored. For this reason, it's important to regularly visit a gynecologist.
One of the symptoms of vaginal cancer is bleeding from the vagina. This symptom is easily ignored because as a woman, it's easy to mistake for your period or spotting. Be aware of what is and what it not normal for your body. For example, bloody discharge between periods or after menopause or a period that is suddenly heavier than normal may be signs of vaginal cancer.
2. Changes in bathroom habits
Going to the bathroom more often than usual, blood in your urine or stool and constipation are all signs of vaginal cancer.
3. Pelvic pain
Pain between your hip bones, especially when you urinate or have sex can indicate vaginal cancer.
4. Lump in the vagina
While many of the bumps on your vagina are not harmful in any way, an unusual bump could be cancerous.
If you have these symptoms, especially if you have them in conjunction with each other, visit a doctor to get a professional opinion.
You are at a higher risk of contracting vaginal cancer if you:
have Human Papillomavirus Virus (HPV)
have a history of cervical or uterine cancer
are older than 60
have had a hysterectomy
were exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) in the womb
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