aginal cancer is one of the most frightening diagnoses a woman can receive. In most cases, vaginal cancer is diagnosed in women older than 45 years of age, with many diagnosed between 60 and 65 years of age. Most of vaginal cancers are classified as squamous cell carcinomas (approximately 95%). Squamous cell carcinoma is believed to be caused by the HPV virus.
Vaginal cancers may begin on the vaginal lining surface, and if left untreated, grow into deeper surrounding tissues, eventually invading them and gradually spreading through other parts of the body.
One of the most common ways to detect signs of vaginal cancer is during routine pelvic exams and Pap smears. To confirm diagnosis, a gynecologist may scrape a number of cells from the wall of the vagina for microscopic examination. The doctor may also perform a biopsy, taking a sample of any sore, growth, or otherwise abnormal looking area along the vaginal lining that is observed during a routine examination.
Prognosis of vaginal cancer scenarios are determined by the stage of cancer. In most cases, when cancers are limited to the vagina, survival rate is estimated at approximately 70%. However, if cancer has spread to the bladder or rectum, or beyond the pelvic area, survival rate decreases.
Treatment of vaginal cancer will depend on the staging or severity of the cancer. However, regardless of stage, surgery is highly recommended, with or without radiation therapy. Radiation therapy may be internal, which is performed by inserting a radioactive implant inside the vagina, or from outside of the body, with radiation technologies focused on the pelvis.
When the upper portion of the vagina is affected, a doctor may recommend hysterectomy with removal of pelvic lymph nodes, as well as removal of the upper portion of the vagina. In cases where surgery is not possible, as in advanced cancer stages, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are recommended.
Cancer treatments for vaginal cancer depend on the stage and prognosis of the cancer. The type of drugs utilized in chemotherapy or radiation therapies as well as methods will also affect costs. Radiation and chemotherapy treatments for vaginal cancer can, and often do, exceed $50,000. Cost of a hysterectomy, including hospital stay may average approximately $10,000. Visitors traveling to other countries for the same procedures may save on costs.
An oncologist or cancer specialist treats most types of cancers. In conjunction with a gynecologist, the oncologist will determine a treatment plan that offers best outcomes for survival. All doctors involved in across-the-board care for the patient should be licensed and certified in their field of specialty and belong to organizations, boards, or associations of oncology.
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