Treatment for vaginal cancer
Specific treatment for vaginal cancer will be determined by your physician based on:
- Your overall health and medical history.
- Extent of the disease.
- Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies.
- Expectations for the course of the disease.
- Your opinion, preference or goals.
Treatments available for patients with cancerous or precancerous conditions of the vagina may include:
- Surgery, including:
- Laser surgery to remove the cancer, including LEEP (loop electroexcision procedure).
- Local excision to remove the cancer.
- Vaginectomy (partial) to remove the vagina.
- Chemotherapy – the use of anti-cancer drugs to treat cancerous cells. In most cases, chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cell’s ability to grow or reproduce. Different groups of drugs work in different ways to fight cancer cells. The oncologist will recommend a treatment plan for each individual.
- Radiation therapy – the use of energy beams to kill cancer cells and to shrink tumors. There are two ways to deliver radiation therapy, including the following:
- External radiation (external beam therapy) – a treatment that precisely sends high levels of radiation directly to the cancer cells. The machine is controlled by the radiation therapist. Since radiation is used to kill cancer cells and to shrink tumors, special shields may be used to protect the tissue surrounding the treatment area. Radiation treatments are painless and usually last a few minutes.
- Internal radiation (brachytherapy, implant radiation) – radiation is given inside the body as close to the cancer as possible. Tiny tubes that contain substances that produce radiation, called radioisotopes, are inserted through the vagina and left in place for a few days. Internal radiation involves giving a higher dose of radiation in a shorter time span than with external radiation. Hospitalization is required when an internal implant is in place. In some cases, both internal and external radiation therapies are used.