Vaginal Cancer: Treatment

There are different types of treatment for patients with vaginal cancer, and may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or a combination of any of these options.  There is no standard way to manage vaginal cancer.  

Your treatment plan should be personalized to your overall health, the location, size and stage of the cancer.  Your doctor will discuss these options with you, and recommend a plan that will best treat your cancer, yet preserve quality of life and lower toxicity as much as possible.  If you want to get pregnant in the future and have not gone through menopause, talk with your doctor before starting treatment.

Surgery

Due to the location of vaginal cancers, surgeries may be associated with changes to your anatomy.  Your doctor will discuss which method is best, and they may involve:  

  • Laser surgery:  using a laser beam as a knife to remove tumor.
  • Vaginectomy:  removing all or parts of the vagina.
  • Total or radical hysterectomy:  removing the cervix, uterus, and surrounding parts of the vagina.
  • Pelvic exenteration.:  a complex procedure that removes the vulvar, vagina, nearby lymph nodes, and may involve removing the rectum, bladder, uterus, cervix, vagina depending upon how far the cancer has spread.
  • Inguinal or pelvic lymph node dissection:  if cancer has spread to groin or pelvic lymph nodes, they would be removed surgically.

Radiation Therapy

With advanced radiation therapy techniques doctors can better target tumors while reducing the radiation to nearby healthy tissues. Here at HICCC our radiation oncology experts have the ability to provide “state of the art” treatments for your disease.

Your radiation oncologist will design the optimal treatment plan for you with you that will provide you the best optimal results. Treatment delivery can be daily, weekly, every other day, and or single fraction.

If radiation treatment is recommended, a radiation oncologist will work with our radiation oncology team to create a course of treatment. At Columbia University Irving Medical Center treatment modalities available and most commonly used for this cancer are External Beam Radiation Therapy, 3D Conformal Radiotherapy, Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) and Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT).

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs that may be given alone, or with radiation either before the surgery to shrink the tumor, or after surgery to eradicate microscopic cancer cells.   Topical chemotherapy for squamous cell vaginal cancer may be applied as local treatment inside the vagina.  

Gynecologic Oncologists at Columbia’s Cancer Center offers state of the art chemotherapy options as well as specially trained support staff to promote quality of life care while undergoing adjuvant treatments.