Vaginal Cancer

Vaginal Cancer: Diagnosis


Illustration of the anatomy of the female pelvic area

How is vaginal cancer diagnosed?

If your healthcare provider thinks
you might have vaginal cancer, you will need certain exams and tests to be sure.
Diagnosing vaginal cancer starts with your healthcare provider asking you questions.
You
will be asked about your health history, symptoms, risk factors, and family history
of
disease. A physical exam and a pelvic exam will be done. This allows your provider
to
look at your vagina and feel other organs in your pelvis to check for tumors or
lumps.

What tests might I need? 

You may have one or more of these tests:

  • Pelvic
    exam.
    This exam of the vagina and pelvis allows your healthcare provider
    to find out the size of the cancer and where it is in your vagina.

  • Pap
    test.
     This is also called a Pap smear. It’s done during a pelvic exam. A
    swab is wiped on the cervix or vagina to pick up cells. The cells are then checked
    under a microscope. They’re checked for any signs of cancer or precancer,
    infection, or inflammation.

  • Biopsy. A biopsy is when small pieces of tissue from the vagina are taken
    out and tested for cancer. A biopsy may be done during a colposcopy. It’s the only
    way to know for sure that cell changes in the vagina are cancer and what type of
    cancer it is.

  • Colposcopy. This test uses a lighted magnifying tool called a colposcope
    to closely examine the cervix and vagina. The colposcope stays outside your body
    and the healthcare provider looks through it. If abnormal tissue is found, a small
    piece of it may be removed so it can be checked for cancer. This is called a
    colposcopic biopsy.

Getting your test results

When your healthcare provider has
the results of your tests, he or she will contact you with the results. Your provider
will talk with you about other tests you may need if vaginal cancer is found. This
may
include repeating the biopsy or more tests. Make sure you understand the results and
what you need to do next.