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Vaginal Cancer Diagnosis

If your healthcare 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.

Following your physical exam, you may have one of the following tests:

  • Imaging Test. An X-ray image or CT scan may reveal any abnormalities that your healthcare providers are searching for.
  • Biopsy Tissue Sample. 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.
  • Colposcopy. In this procedure, patients lie on the exam table as you do 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, he or she can see the vaginal walls and the surface of the cervix 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.