How is vaginal cancer treated?
Every patient at Miami Cancer Institute receives a personalized treatment plan put together by our team of gynecologic oncologists.
Our philosophy is to find the plan that not only treats the cancer, but also fits you as a patient. Your team will consider your specific diagnosis and type of tumor, the stage of disease, size and location of tumor and whether it has spread to other parts of your body. We also work closely with physical therapists, nurses, nutritionists, and psychosocial experts to ensure we address any potential side effects of treatment.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a low-grade vaginal pre-cancer, or VAIN, your doctor may choose to monitor the disease to see if it goes away on its own. If it is a high-grade pre-cancer that is more likely to develop into vaginal cancer, your doctor may treat it with laser surgery or topical therapy. Topical therapy is a medicine that is applied directly to the lining of the vagina.
If you’ve been diagnosed with vaginal cancer, surgery is often the first step to treatment.
In many cases, gynecologic cancers can be treated with minimally invasive laparoscopic and robotic surgery techniques. As leaders in gynecologic cancer surgery, Miami Cancer Institute has one of the largest minimally invasive gynecologic surgical programs in the region. The Institute also holds a designation as a center of excellence in minimally invasive gynecologic surgery by the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopists (AAGL).
Miami Cancer Institute also takes a team approach to gynecologic surgeries. This means your care team will collaborate with surgery specialists from different treatment areas to help create a comprehensive care plan for you.
Surgery to treat vaginal cancer may include:
- Laser surgery - This type of surgery uses a laser beam to remove cancerous tissue or a tumor. Laser surgery generally results in less blood loss compared with standard surgery.
- Wide local excision - This type of surgery removes cancerous tissue and some surrounding healthy tissue.
- Vaginectomy - This is a procedure that removes part or all of the vagina.
- Lymph node dissection - During this procedure, surgeons remove the pelvic lymph nodes or groin lymph nodes, depending on the location of the cancer.
- Radical hysterectomy - During this procedure, surgeons remove the uterus, cervix and part of the vagina. In some cases, surgeons will also remove some surrounding tissue and lymph nodes.
- Total pelvic exenteration - During this procedure, which is for cancer that has spread within the pelvis, surgeons remove all the organs in the pelvis, including the bladder, uterus, cervix, vagina, parts of the colon and sometimes the vulva. They then reconstruct any organs that are removed, so you can continue to live a full life after treatment.
After surgery, our experts will help you through enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS), a nationally recognized recovery method that allows patients to heal faster with less pain. This method, which avoids the use of narcotics, involves a cross-team approach between your nurses and anesthesiologists.
In some cases, your care team may decide to combine surgery with radiation therapy. Radiation therapy can be given externally, with a machine outside the body, or internally using needles, catheters or seeds that are placed directly into or near the vaginal cancer.
Your care team may also use chemotherapy to treat your cancer.
Whether you receive radiation therapy or chemotherapy will depend on many factors, including the location of your cancer, how aggressive it is and whether it has spread to another part of the body.
A multidisciplinary team of cancer experts including surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, plastic reconstructive surgeons, pathologists, radiologists, genetic counselors, medical geneticists, social workers, patient navigators and clinical trials staff meet weekly to discuss select complex cases and determine the best course of care. Stem cell transplantation experts and hematologic oncology experts are also available to discuss complex cases.
Miami Cancer Institute can provide access to clinical trials not widely available elsewhere. Clinical trials find new ways to treat and diagnose cancer and are ongoing. If an appropriate trial is available, we will talk to you about the benefits and risks.
Patient Support Services
Taking care of the whole patient is an important component of providing personalized cancer care. Integrated into the fabric of the Miami Cancer Institute, the Cancer Patient Support Center addresses the psychological, physical, social and spiritual needs of our patients during cancer treatment and beyond.