Vaginal and vulvar cancers occur when cells in the vagina or external genitals (vulva) begin to grow out of control. While these cancers are not common, the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the known cause for at least half of the cases each year. HPV is also linked to cervical cancer.
Your Aurora provider can provide the HPV vaccine along with regular Pap smears and gynecological exams to help reduce your risk for these types of cancers. If needed, our surgeons offer laparoscopy, with or without robotic assistance.
Symptoms associated with vaginal and vulvar cancer may be similar to those of a different condition. Schedule a visit with your OB-GYN to identify what is causing the symptoms and seek treatment.
Vulvar and vaginal cancer symptoms may include:
If you have any of the above symptoms, schedule a visit with your Aurora Health Care OB-GYN. They will discuss your personal and family medical history with you to determine if you have any risk factors for these cancers.
Next, the doctor will perform a Pap smear and gynecological exam to rule out other causes for the cancer symptoms. Your OB-GYN may want you to undergo certain tests, or they may refer you to a gynecologic cancer specialist for testing, such as:
We may also use these tests to determine if cancer has spread:
Your treatment plan will depend on the diagnosis and your overall health, as well as whether you have or want to have children. Your doctor will discuss the course of treatment that best suits your needs.
Generally, treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Depending on your individual situation, your cancer specialists may recommend surgery followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy to destroy additional cancer cells. In some cases, we may use chemotherapy or radiation to shrink your tumor before surgery.
Surgical options to treat uterine cancer include:
The surgeon uses heat from an energy beam directed to the cancer site to destroy abnormal cells.
Using tiny incisions, we insert special surgical instruments to remove the cancer and surrounding tissue, if cancer has spread there.
This minimally invasive procedure surgically removes part or all of the vagina and sometimes the surrounding tissue, if affected by cancer.
The surgeon makes a small incision at the top of the vagina to remove the uterus and sometimes other reproductive organs, if cancer has spread to them.
An incision in your abdomen allows:
Your surgeon will remove some of the lymph nodes in your pelvis and abdomen and have them examined under a microscope to see if the cancer has spread.
This minimally invasive gynecologic procedure uses robotic arms along with magnified views and the surgeon's skills to perform a hysterectomy or vaginectomy. Learn more about laparoscopy and robotic surgery.
Nonsurgical treatments for uterine cancer include:
Cancer treatments may affect your ability to get pregnant or deliver a baby. Talk to your doctor if preserving fertility is important to you. He or she will recommend a fertility evaluation and discuss options that may help you conceive and/or carry a child after treatment.
Our skilled surgeons can reconstruct the vagina after it has been removed to allow women to have intercourse. They reconstruct the vagina from skin or tissue taken from elsewhere in the body.