The diagnosis of vaginal cancer is made through the following methods:
Medical history and physical examination: If your gynecologist suspects you of having cancer, he/she will ask you about the symptoms, medical history, and family history of cancer. The medical history and family history of the women help to evaluate the risk of vaginal cancer. In addition, the woman may undergo a pelvic examination to check for any lump or mass in the vagina. If vaginal cancer is suspected, she is advised to undergo further examination.
Vaginoscopy: If the pap test detects abnormal cells, the woman may have to undergo a colposcopic examination. During this examination, the vagina is made open by placing a speculum. A colposcope, comprising magnifying glass, is used to examine the cervix and vagina. The cervical surface and the vaginal walls are visualized clearly with the colposcope. For more clarity, iodine or acetic acid solution is sometimes used. A colposcopic examination can also be done in pregnant women. If abnormal cells are detected during vaginoscopy, oncologists may perform a biopsy.
Biopsy: Several symptoms of vaginal cancer overlap with several other vaginal disorders. A biopsy is the only method that confirms the presence of vaginal cancer. The oncologists obtain a small tissue sample from the abnormal area and send it to the laboratory to determine the presence of cancerous or pre-cancerous cells. The results also indicate the type of vaginal cancer.
Imaging tests: Imaging tests are not generally used for the diagnosis of vaginal cancer. However, if the vaginal cancer is confirmed through biopsy, the next step is to find the cancer stage and the site to which cancer has spread. It helps cancer specialists to develop a treatment strategy. Some of the imaging tests for vaginal cancer include:
Computed tomography scan: CT scan provides detailed information about the shape, size, and location of the tumor. It also helps in detecting the lymph nodes affected by cancer. Further, a CT scan also assists during a biopsy (CT-guided biopsy).Chest x-ray: You may have to undergo a chest-x-ray, especially if your gynecologist suspects that cancer may have spread to the lungs.Magnetic resonance imaging: MRI imaging is important in determining the presence of pelvic tumors. It assists oncologists in determining the spread of vaginal cancer to the lymph nodes, spinal cord, and brain.Positron emission tomography: PET scans may not provide clear images as compared to CT or MRI, but they detect the presence of cancer cells throughout the body. The technique is not implemented in early vaginal cancer but is useful in advanced cancer.
Endoscopic tests: Certain endoscopic tests are used to determine the spread of vaginal cancer to different organs. The endoscopic tests include:
Proctosigmoidoscopy: The woman undergoes this test to detect if vaginal cancer has spread to the rectum and colon.Cystoscopy: This test determines the spread of vaginal cancer to the urinary bladder. The woman is kept under sedation during the procedure.
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