If your health care provider believes you may have vaginal cancer, you will need certain exams and tests to be sure.
You should expect to be asked questions about your health history, your symptoms, risk factors and family history of disease. Understanding your background will help your provider make a diagnosis.

The first step is for the doctor to take a complete medical history to check for risk factors and symptoms. Then your doctor will physically examine you, including a pelvic exam and possibly a Pap test and a vaginal biopsy.

  • X-rays. These quick and easy imaging studies use radiation to create images of the structures within the body.
  • Computed tomography. During this imaging test, X-rays create cross-sectional images of the pelvis and reproductive system.

A biopsy removes tissue or cells to be checked by a pathologist under a microscope. Results from a biopsy help determine if abnormal cells are cancer. Your doctor may perform this procedure in a variety of ways, including bronchoscopy, mediastinoscopy and needle biopsy. Ask your provider about your specific type of biopsy to learn more.

In this procedure, patients lie on the exam table as they would for a pelvic exam. A speculum is placed in the vagina. The doctor will use the colposcope to examine the cervix and vagina. The colposcope stays outside the body and has magnifying lenses (like binoculars). When the doctor looks through the colposcope, the vaginal walls and the surface of the cervix can be viewed closely and clearly. Sometimes a weak solution of acetic acid (similar to vinegar) or iodine is applied to make any abnormal areas easier to see. Using a colposcope to look at the vagina is called vaginoscopy.

Patients will be contacted after a biopsy by a Markey team member to review results. Further management will be recommended at that time.

When you are diagnosed with vaginal cancer, it is common to feel a sense of urgency around starting treatment. However, in most cases, there is time to do the needed research to ensure that your diagnosis is correct. That may include getting a second opinion.

Our team of experts works together to diagnose, treat and prevent vaginal cancer, with a focus on individualized patient care. 

Markey is among the best cancer centers in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report, when it comes to advanced treatment options, survival rates and experienced providers. As the one and only NCI-designated cancer program in Kentucky, Markey is able to serve many patients each year with rare and common cancers, including vaginal cancer.

Our specialized team is happy to work with your doctors and communicate to ensure confidence in your diagnosis.

Should I get a second opinion?

A second opinion can help to ensure that you will be getting the latest and most effective therapy for treating vaginal cancer. The following are common reasons for seeking a second opinion after your initial diagnosis:

  • You are having difficulty understanding your diagnosis.
  • A dedicated team specialized in your cancer type may not be available in your area.
  • There may be uncertainty around the stage of vaginal cancer.
  • You may want to learn more about treatment options, including clinical trials and advanced technologies only available at an advanced center like Markey.
  • Your health insurance requires a second opinion before continuing toward treatment.

Questions to ask when getting a second opinion

After receiving a cancer diagnosis, you may have a lot on your mind. Here a few questions to keep in mind for your doctor when seeking a second opinion:

  • Is there a chance that my medical problem could have a different diagnosis?
  • Are there additional tests I should take before moving forward with treatment?
  • Do you recommend any treatments at this time?
  • What do you expect to happen if I wait or don’t have the treatment?
  • What are the side effects of treatment?
  • How long are treatment recovery periods?

For more information, visit these trusted national sources for educational tools and resources:

Markey Cancer Center is NCI-designated

The UK Markey Cancer Center was first designated by the National Cancer Institute in 2013 – a distinction that recognizes our extraordinary ability to provide world-class care for our patients. We are the only NCI-designated cancer center in Kentucky and one of only 71 in the nation.

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