Cancer Treatment Centers of America
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Surgery for vaginal cancer

surgical oncology

Surgery for vaginal cancer

The first line in the treatment of women with early-stage vaginal cancer at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) is surgery. Our experienced gynecologic oncologist performs numerous procedures to treat vaginal cancers.

We also perform vaginal cancer surgery for women with sarcomas and melanomas, and for cancers that are not treated with radiation therapy.

We may perform a variety of surgical procedures for the treatment of vaginal cancers:

  • Local excision: Also known as a wide excision, the doctor removes the cancer and some of the surrounding normal tissue (the margin). Nearby lymph nodes may also be removed and examined for signs of cancer cells.
  • Vaginectomy: In this vaginal cancer surgical procedure, doctors remove the vagina, and in some cases, the surrounding supporting tissue (radical vaginectomy).
  • Trachelectomy: This procedure, which removes the cervix but leaves the uterus in place, may sometimes be used to treat vaginal cancers that occur in the upper part of the vagina, close to the cervix.
  • Hysterectomy: During this type of vaginal cancer surgery, the cervix and the uterus are removed. In a radical hysterectomy, all of the surrounding tissue (the parametria), the upper part of the vagina and the lymph nodes in the pelvis are removed as well. For young women, the ovaries may be left behind to preserve ovarian function. For older women, they are removed.
  • Vaginal reconstruction: In cases where the vagina must be removed, tissues from other parts of the body can be used to reconstruct a new vagina.
  • Lymphadenectomy: Also known as a lymph node dissection, this procedure is performed to remove lymph nodes in the groin and pelvic areas to determine if the cancer has spread.
  • Pelvic extenteration: During this extensive vaginal cancer surgical procedure, the uterus, cervix, vagina, ovaries, bladder, rectum and nearby lymph nodes may be removed, depending on the extent of the cancer. Tissue from elsewhere in the body is used to reconstruct the vagina, and urine and stool are passed into external bags. This operation is rarely used to treat vaginal cancers, but may be necessary if the cancer comes back after radiation therapy, or in cases where radiation therapy cannot be used.

What is surgery?

Surgery is used to diagnose, stage and treat cancer, and certain cancer-related symptoms. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), our experienced surgeons have performed thousands of procedures and will discuss appropriate surgical options that meet your individual needs.

Whether a patient is a candidate for surgery depends on factors such as the type, size, location, grade and stage of the tumor, as well as general health factors such as age, physical fitness and other medical comorbidities. For many patients, surgery will be combined with other cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy or hormone therapy. These may be administered before surgery (neoadjuvant) or after surgery (adjuvant) to help prevent cancer growth, spread or recurrence.

Early in the treatment planning process, we plan for and proactively manage any side effects from surgery. Our nutritionists, rehabilitation therapists and naturopathic clinicians are available to work with your surgical oncologist to support your healing and quality of life. Our reconstructive surgeons perform procedures to restore the body's appearance and function, often at the time of surgery or following surgery.