10 Apr

Vaginal Cancer

When talking about vaginas is still a bit of an awkward topic, it’s hardly a surprise that awareness of vaginal cancers is low.

I read and write about vaginas a lot and even I have to admit that until recently I wasn’t aware that there are 5 different types of gynaecological cancer. It really highlighted to me the need to raise awareness of them. It’s especially important as, if diagnosed early, they can be treated and cured.

So what is vaginal cancer?

Below I’ve given a quick overview of each cancer with its symptoms. I’ve also linked a few helpful websites that you’ll find at the bottom of the page if you want to find out any more info. Before you read some of the symptoms and worry, remember that some of these symptoms could be caused by a variety of things. If something does concern you, always make sure you speak to your GP.

 

Womb Cancer

What is it?

Womb cancer is the most common gynaecological cancer and is in fact the 4th most common cancer for women in the UK. If diagnosed early it can be easily cured. It is also known as uterine or endometrial cancer.

 Symptoms:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding, i.e. after the menopause or in between periods

 

Cervical Cancer

What is it?

Cervical cancer predominantly affects women aged 30-45 and is very rare for women under the age of 25. Cervical screenings largely help to prevent this disease and the earlier cervical cancer is found the better the outcome.

 Symptoms:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding, especially after sex or after the menopause
  • Vaginal discharge that is blood stained or smells unpleasant

 

Ovarian Cancer

What is it?

Ovarian cancer is the 5th most common cancer death in women. It can affect women of any age but is mainly prevalent in post-menopausal women over the age of 50.

Again, if this cancer is diagnosed early the outcome is good. However the early signs are easily missed and that’s why it is important to be aware of the symptoms.

 Symptoms:

  • Persistent pelvic and abdominal pain
  • Increased abdominal size/persistent bloating – not bloating that comes and goes
  • Difficulty eating and feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms – needing  to pass water more often than usual

 

Vaginal Cancer

What is it?

Vaginal cancer is very rare and occurs when the cells in the lining of the vagina change. The HPV vaccine, which protects women against cervical cancer, is arguably now the best protection against vaginal cancer.

 Symptoms:

  • Abnormal bleeding, including after sex, after the menopause or in between periods
  • Vaginal discharge that smells or is blood stained – about 3 out of 10 women (30%) have this symptom
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • A lump or growth in the vagina that you or your doctor can feel – up to 1 in 10 women (10%) have this
  • A vaginal itch that won’t go away

 

Vulval Cancer

What is it?

This cancer affects those mostly over the age of 65 but is very rare. Age, vulval skin conditions, HPV and smoking are all risk factors in vulval cancer developing.

 Symptoms:

  • A lasting itch
  • Pain or soreness
  • Thickened, raised, red, white or dark patches on the skin of the vulva
  • An open sore or growth visible on the skin
  • Burning pain when you pass urine
  • Vaginal discharge or bleeding
  • A mole on the vulva that changes shape or colour
  • A lump or swelling in the vulva

 If you are worried or concerned about anything you’ve read it’s always best to speak to your GP.


References and useful websites:

https://www.eveappeal.org.uk/

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Cancer-of-the-uterus/Pages/Introduction.aspx

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/09/02/what-is-vaginal-cancer_n_5751086.html

 

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