We often dismiss small signs because of our lack of awarness of the possible health conditions due to those symptoms.
Cancer is no more a health condition that's unheard of. In fact, there's a lot more talk about cancer now more than ever because of the many different ways in which it can strike. And the fear of death looms over those battling for life against it. Among women, vaginal cancer is what many want to know more about. According to the American Cancer Society, only one in every 1100 women develops vaginal cancer. It estimates that about 1,430 women will die of vaginal cancer in the United States in 2019.
Just like other cancers, it is impossible to predict when it may arise. But being able to spot the symptoms is one way of being aware of your health.
According to WebMD, there are two types of vaginal cancer:
1. Squamous cell carcinoma
This type of vaginal cancer is most common among the two prevalent cancers. It occurs when cancer forms in the flat thin cells that line the vagina. This type of cancer is said to spread slowly and mostly remains at the place it initially occurs. However, it can still spread to other organs.
Women who are 60 and above are particularly at risk as half of the cases reported was in that particular age group.
The initial growth of this cancer is found in the glandular cells in the vaginal lining that produce mucus and other fluids. This type of vaginal cancer is most likely to spread to other parts of the body. A rarer form of adenocarcinoma known as Clear cell carcinoma is found in women whose mothers might have taken the hormone diethylstilbestrol (DES) in the early stages of their pregnancies. In other cases, it is more likely to be seen in women after menopause.
Some times, vaginal cancer is also linked to human papillomavirus, or HPV, infection, a very common STI. About nine out of 10 cases are linked to this infection.
Knowing the symptoms and signs will help you get the right treatment before it is too late. However most vaginal cancers do not show any symptoms, but if they do, here are a few signs:
1. Unusual bleeding
If you experience any kind of unusual bleeding you should be concerned. The heavy bleeding can be especially abnormal if it has occurred after menopause. These can be signs of vaginal cancer. Experiencing heavy bleeding in between your periods or heavier or longer periods can be other signs.
2. Pelvic pain
If you experience a sharp pain in the area below your stomach and in between your hips, it means that cancer has spread to other regions. It can be described as a pain or pressure that is felt anywhere below the navel area. The pain can be constant or between intervals.
3. Vaginal discharge
Women often have vaginal discharge and therefore, it does not automatically seem like a cause for concern. However, if you notice an abnormal discharge with or without a blood tinge, it can be related to vaginal cancer. The discharge may also have a different odor. Though it is a rare scenario, it is always better to get it checked.
4. Vaginal mass
Patients affected by vaginal cancer can develop a noticeable mass in the vagina. It can be felt by you or a doctor. However, there are several causes of vaginal mass including vaginal cysts. To ensure that the mass is not cancerous, a biopsy should be done.
5. Urination problems
We might notice changes in our urination frequencies. This usually happens due to the intake of more fluids. Cancer.Net says that people who suffer from vaginal cancer tend to have difficulty or experience pain while urinating. You may also observe blood in the urine. Though you might not be able to notice visible blood, a pink tinge can be seen on the tissue or the panty.
6. Bowel movement changes
Bowel movement changes can be observed in various health conditions including vaginal cancer. As cancer grows and begins to spread, you might experience chronic constipation and black stools. You might also be left with a feeling that you have not emptied your bowel fully.