Vaginal Cancer:
Diagnosis and Staging

This page covers tests that are often used to help diagnose and stage vaginal cancer.
Depending on the symptoms you have, you may also be asked to undergo other tests and investigations.
Diagnostic Tests to Determine Cancer Type

Once the doctor is sure of an abnormality, the following tests are done to determine further details about the type of cancer present.

Colposcopy

What to expect

If you have symptoms that suggest vaginal cancer, your physician may recommend a procure called a colposcopy.

A colposcopy is generally pain-free, unless you have an underlying condition that causes pain to your pelvic area. You can expect some minor discomfort while undergoing the test. It is important that you choose a doctor and clinical team that you are comfortable with to perform your test. Your clinician may tell you to avoid doing the test during your menstrual period.

During a colposcopy,

  • You will first be asked to undress the lower part of your body and lie on the examination table. Ask for a sheet or blanket to cover yourself while you wait for your doctor.

  • Try to relax your pelvic area, as this will make the test more comfortable for you.

  • Your doctor will first place a speculum inside your vaginal opening. The speculum is a metal or plastic instrument that keeps the vagina open so that it can be seen clearly and examined using a colposcope.

  • A colposcope is a magnifying instrument used to check for abnormal tissue.

  • If any abnormal areas are seen, your doctor may recommend that a biopsy be done.

Biopsy

What to expect

A biopsy is usually the best way to tell for certain if an abnormal area is cancerous or not and is usually done immediately after the colposcopy. This procedure involves collecting a sample of vaginal tissue for further analysis in a lab.

During this procedure, your doctor will draw some cells from the vaginal lining into a tube using gentle suction. You might feel some period-like cramps while it is being done, but they usually wear off in a few minutes. After the test, you may have light bleeding and some mild period-like discomfort for a couple of days.

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