Sarah Nielsen, a Greensboro, NC resident- Her journey with vaginal cancer began after a pap-test found pre cervical cancer, which was followed by a hysterectomy to remove her uterus and cervix.
Four years after the surgery, Nielsen started experiencing the signs of vaginal cancer, which typically includes-̶̶ unusual bleeding, pain, problems related to urination or bowel movements, a watery vaginal discharge and/or a lump or mass in the vagina. Nielsen said she had never met a vaginal cancer survivor, but she was determined to find a community of support. Vaginal cancer is considered to be the rarest form of gynecological cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 out of 1,100 women develop vaginal cancer in their lifetime.
From the experience of her cancer journey Sarah Nielsen says, “Do not let fear, embarrassment or shame prevent you from finding the help you need. You are not alone!”
Now comes the basic knowledge which the mass needs to know about Vaginal Cancer
Vaginal cancer is a rare cancer that occurs in the vagina- the muscular tube that connects uterus with the outer genitals. It most commonly occurs in the cells that line the surface of vagina, which is sometimes called birth canal.
The cause of vaginal cancer is not clear but in general cancer begins when healthy cells acquire a genetic mutation that turns the normal cells into abnormal ones.
Mark your body giving symptoms such as:
- Unusual bleeding after intercourse or menopause
- Watery vaginal discharge
- A lump or mass in your vagina
- Painful urination
- Frequent urination
- Pelvic pain
Many wish to know this beforehand to be able to prevent it. Hence, according to doctor McLaughlin, taking a Pap-smear test in every three years for women belonging to the age group of 21 to 65 years is advisable. Another option for women of 30 to 65 years is screening with a combination of Pap test and HPV test in every five years.
TREATMENT: The treatment is radiation, using both brachytherapy and external beam radiation. Radical surgery is an option for some women with stage II
So, the DO’s are:
- Exercise regularly
- Relax your mind
- Eat healthy, mostly vegetables and fruits
- Maintain proper hygiene
- Follow routine health checkups
- Use protection while having sex
And the DONT’s are:
- Do not smoke
- Do not be promiscuous
- Do not consume alcohol
- Do not expose to intense sunlight
- Do not use random soaps and body-wash to clean your vagina. Rather opt for the ones recommended by the doctor.
Overall vaginal cancer is a very rare disease which could be prevented through a combination of healthy lifestyle and regular screening. Do not neglect but consult a doctor as soon as you identify any of the above mentioned symptoms.
On a much sad note usually women reach the last stage of such deadly diseases as they glue their mouth behind the bars of shame, social awkwardness and non supportive family. Let the society understand, vaginal cancer is not a matter of shame but a matter of immediate action.
Story By: Dibyashree Panda