Vaginal Cancer Treatments
Northwestern Medicine offers a variety of treatment options for vaginal cancer. Your course of treatment may include a single therapy or a combination of treatments, including:
- Laser surgery: In this procedure, a high-energy light beam is used to vaporize abnormal tissue.
- Vaginectomy: All or part of your vagina is removed. This is usually done in conjunction with another procedure.
- Trachelectomy: This procedure removes your cervix, but leaves the uterus in place, and may be used to treat vaginal cancers occurring in the upper portion of the vagina, close to the cervix.
- Local or wide excision: Your surgeon remove the cancerous cells, along with the surrounding rim of normal tissue.
- Hysterectomy: In this procedure, surgeons remove your uterus and cervix.
- Radical hysterectomy: Depending on the extent of your cancer, it may be necessary for surgeons to remove your uterus, cervix and ovaries, as well as the upper part of your vagina and surrounding tissues.
- Lymphadenectomy: One or more groups of lymph nodes in your groin area or from inside the pelvis near your vagina are removed.
- Vaginal reconstruction: If your vagina is removed, tissues from other parts of your body can be used to create a new vagina.
- Pelvic exenteration: If your cancer has spread beyond the vagina to nearby organs, an extensive surgical procedure may be needed to remove your uterus, cervix, ovaries, bladder, rectum and nearby lymph nodes. This is a rare procedure that is only done when no other treatment options will be helpful.
- da Vinci® Robotic-assisted surgery: This minimally invasive alternative to both open surgery and laparoscopy requires only a few tiny incisions, which can mean reduced pain and a faster return to daily activities.
Radiation therapy uses precision-targeted and controlled doses of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. Types of radiation therapy used to treat vaginal cancer include:
- External beam radiation therapy: A target method, usually by a linear accelerator, to deliver a beam or several beams of high-energy radiation to the site of a tumor, while sparing surrounding healthy tissue
- Brachytherapy: An advanced cancer treatment that delivers a highly concentrated dose of radiation near or in the tumor, while sparing the surrounding healthy tissue
- 3-D conformal radiation therapy: A radiation therapy technique that sculpts radiation beams to the shape of a tumor
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): A cancer therapy that "sculpts" the dose of radiation to conform to the unique shape of a tumor
- Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT): Uses frequent images during a course of radiation therapy to improve the precision and accuracy of the radiation delivery
- TomoTherapy®: A type of IMRT in which the radiation is applied slice-by-slice
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Your care team may recommend one or a combination of the following chemotherapy medications to treat your vaginal cancer:
- Fluorouracil (5-FU)
Through a hormone receptor test, your physician can determine if the hormones in your body are causing cancer cells to grow. If so, hormone therapy can help prevent the growth, spread and recurrence of vaginal cancer.
Through leading-edge clinical trials, Northwestern Medicine brings you access to some of the latest treatment possibilities for cancer. Learn more about current clinical trials.