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.