What is vaginal and vulvar cancer?

Vaginal and Vulvar Cancer
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Vaginal and vulvar cancer: Overview

Vaginal and vulvar cancer occur when abnormal cells grow out of control in the vagina or the vulva. The vagina, also called the birth canal, is the tube that goes from the uterus to the outside of the body. The vulva includes the lips of the vagina, the sensitive tissue between those lips called the clitoris, and the opening of the vagina.

Cancer of the vagina or vulva is often curable when it is found early. Treatment may include surgery to remove part or all of the vulva or vagina. It may also include radiation, which uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells, or chemotherapy, which uses medicines.

Being treated for cancer can weaken your body, and you may feel very tired. Home treatment and certain medicines can relieve some of your symptoms and help you feel better.

How can you care for vaginal and vulvar cancer?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you have any problems with your medicine. You may get medicine for nausea and vomiting if you have these side effects.
  • Eat healthy food. If you do not feel like eating, try to eat food that has protein and extra calories to keep up your strength and prevent weight loss. Drink liquid meal replacements for extra calories and protein. Try to eat your main meal early.
  • Get some physical activity every day, but do not get too tired. Keep doing the hobbies you enjoy as your energy allows.
  • Take steps to control your stress and workload. Learn relaxation techniques.
    • Share your feelings. Stress and tension affect our emotions. By expressing your feelings to others, you may be able to understand and cope with them.
    • Consider joining a support group. Talking about a problem with your spouse, a good friend, or other people with similar problems is a good way to reduce tension and stress.
    • Express yourself through art. Try writing, crafts, dance, or art to relieve stress. Some dance, writing, or art groups may be available just for people who have cancer.
    • Be kind to your body and mind. Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and taking time to do things you enjoy can contribute to an overall feeling of balance in your life and can help reduce stress.
    • Get help if you need it. Discuss your concerns with your doctor, counselor, or other health professional.
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhea:
    • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Choose water and other clear liquids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
    • When you are able to eat, try clear soups, mild foods, and liquids until all symptoms are gone for 12 to 48 hours. Other good choices include dry toast, crackers, cooked cereal, and gelatin dessert, such as Jell-O.
  • If you have not already done so, prepare a list of advance directives. Advance directives are instructions to your doctor and family members about what kind of care you want if you become unable to speak or express yourself.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.