Treatment options for vaginal cancer will generally depend on the stage of the cancer and the patient’s age and overall health. There are three main types of treatment: surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Surgery is the most common option for all stages of vaginal cancer. In Stage 0 cancer, laser surgery may be used to kill cancer cells. Other options include a wide local excision or partial vaginectomy (in which the cancer and some of the tissue around it are cut out), radical vaginectomy (in which the vagina is removed along with the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes) and pelvic extenteration (in which organs to which the cancer has spread, such as the colon, rectum or bladder, are removed along with the cervix, vagina, and uterus).
Radiation therapy, meanwhile, uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors, and can be used alone or following surgery. This radiation falls into two types: external radiation and internal radiation. External radiation comes from a machine outside the body, whereas with internal radiation, materials that produce radiation are inserted via plastic tubes into the area where the cancer is found.
Chemotherapy employs drugs to kill cancer cells. These drugs may be administered by mouth or intravenously. In treating vaginal cancer, chemotherapy drugs may also be inserted directly into the vagina.