Vaginal Cancer: Diagnosis

To check for vaginal cancer, your doctor will need to perform a complete physical exam, which would include a speculum exam of the vagina and a pelvic exam.  A colposcopy is a procedure using a lighted magnifying instrument called a colposcope to check the vagina and cervix for abnormal areas much more clearly.  A biopsy removing small pieces of abnormal appearing tissue from the vagina may be done.  They can then be studied under a microscope by a Pathologist to check for signs of cancer.

When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis.  The process to find out if cancer has spread is called cancer staging.  The following tests can be used in the staging process for vaginal cancer:

  • Pelvic exam
  • Colposcopy
  • Cystoscopy (putting a small instrument with camera inside the bladder to check for signs of cancer) and
  • Proctoscopy (putting a similar instrument inside the rectum)
  • IVP (intravenous pyelogram)
  • X-ray
  • CT (computer tomography) scan
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans
  • PET (positron emission tomography) scan

 A description of the different stages of vaginal cancer is as follows: 


Cancer is found limited within the vaginal wall



The tumor has spread through the vaginal wall to the tissue around the vagina, but does not involve the pelvic walls or lymph nodes



The tumor spreading and involving the pelvic sidewalls and/or the inguinal lymph nodes



The tumor has spread to other areas beyond the vagina



Cancer spreading to pelvic organs near the vagina such as the bladder, or the rectum



Cancer spreading to parts of body that are not near the vagina, such as lungs or bone.