VAGINA OR VULVA, CANCER OF
DESCRIPTIONThis cancer refers to the uncontrolled growth of malignant cells in the vagina or on the vulva (vaginal lips). It affects females of all ages. One type (rhabdomyosarcoma) occurs in children.
Appropriate health care includes:
Surgery (usually) to remove the vaginal lips.
Radiation treatment (sometimes). External radiation shrinks the primary tumor. Internal radiation (implants) affects cancer that has spread to adjoining tissues. Implants of radium or cesium are used for 48 to 72 hours.
Self-care after diagnosis, radiation treatment, or surgery.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSItching.
Abnormal vaginal bleeding.
Discomfort or bleeding with intercourse.
Small or large, firm, ulcerated, painless lesion of the vulva. Cancers on the vulva have thick, raised edges and bleed easily.
Uncomfortable urination, if cancer spreads to your daughter's bladder.
Rectal bleeding, if it spreads to the rectum.
RISK FACTORSFamily history of cancer of the reproductive organs.
Infants born to mothers who take estrogen during pregnancy.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
No specific preventive measures. Your daughter should have a yearly pelvic exam beginning at about age 16 to detect the disease during early stages, when treatment is most effective.
Your daughter should become familiar with the appearance of her genitals. (She should use a mirror and examine them once a month.)
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Laboratory studies, such as a Pap smear and culposcopy (See Glossary for both).
Surgical diagnostic procedures such as dilatation and curettage (D & C, See Glossary).
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSFatal spread to other body parts. Common sites of spread are the lymph nodes in the groin, the wall of the pelvis, the bladder, rectum, bone, lungs, or liver.
This condition is currently considered incurable, but early detection and treatment offer a good chance for normal life expectancy. Your daughter's symptoms can be relieved or controlled during treatment. Scientific research into causes and treatment continues, so there is hope for increasingly effective treatment and cure.
HOME CARENo specific instructions except those listed under other headings.
MEDICATIONYour doctor may prescribe:
--Antibiotics, if your daughter develops a urinary-tract infection that results from the use of a bladder catheter during radiation treatment.
--Stool softeners beginning a week after treatment.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
ACTIVITYIf you have radiation implants, lie on your back while the radiation source is in place. Move your arms and legs often to prevent formation of deep-vein blood clots.
After radiation treatment--internal or external--resume your normal activities in about 5 days.
After surgery, resume your normal activities gradually, allowing 6 weeks for full recovery.
Resume sexual relations when healing is complete in 8 to 10 weeks.
A catheter will remain in your daughter's bladder for about 2 weeks following surgery or during radiation treatment. Instructions for your daughter:
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet after treatment.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When appetite returns and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of cancer of the vagina or vulva.
The following occurs at the treatment site after surgery or radiation treatment:
--Signs of infection, such as increasing pain, fever and swelling.