Vaginal cancer

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:50 pm
Vaginal (VAJ-in-al) cancer is a disease most common among women between the ages of 50 and 70 years old. It may be the result of endometrial (en-doe-MEE-tree-ul) cancer or a type of mole called a chorio-carcinoma (KORE-ee-oh car-sih-NOE-mah) which has spread from the uterus, or cervical cancer that has advanced. Vaginal cancer may also be caused by untreated human papilloma (pap-ih-LOE-muh) virus or H-P-V infections, or by H-P-V cells left over after a hysterectomy was performed, though the latter is rare. The signs and symptoms of vaginal cancer are highly similar to those of cervical cancer. Early stages of the disease usually have no obvious signs. Later, vaginal discharge often tinged with blood is the most frequent symptom. Irregular spotting and postmenopausal bleeding are also common signs. Symptoms associated with the urinary tract, such as burning during urination, and increased frequency and urgency, are more common with vaginal cancer than with cervical cancer. This occurs because cancers of the lowest part of the vagina are close to the bladder base and its outlet. Unfortunately, the elasticity of the vagina allows cancers to become rather large before they're detected. Routine Pap smears and pelvic examinations are highly recommended, even if you aren't sexually active, and a procedure called iodine staining may be used to detect abnormal cells. For more information on vaginal cancer, contact a health care provider.

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