Vaginal Cancer

St. James’s Hospital (SJH) Gynaecological Cancer Care Centre is the largest provider in the Republic of Ireland of treatment for malignancy of the reproductive organs: cancer of the womb (uterus), cervix, ovary, vagina and vulva.  Our centre provides a regional and national service and is accredited by the NCCP (the HSE’s National Cancer Control Programme) for complex radical gynaecological surgeries. International standards of treatment apply, and the service is supported by research and teaching activities through Trinity College Dublin and the Cancer Trials Research Office at SJH.

Over 300 women with gynaecological cancer are referred to the centre annually. Cancer of the endometrium (lining of the womb) is the most common cancer, followed by cancer of the ovary/fallopian tube, then cervical cancer. Cancers of the vulva and vagina are less common. Women are referred by their general practitioners or by gynaecologists at their local hospital. A Multi-Disciplinary Team of doctors plans and provides the cancer care, and surgery is performed at SJH. Some of the treatments such as chemotherapy can be given in other local regional hospitals. Radiotherapy treatment is given at St Luke’s Hospital (SJH and in Rathgar, Dublin). When treatment is completed, long-term follow-up care is often provided at the patient’s local hospital.  Follow-up visits may go on for five years or longer.

What is Vaginal Cancer?

The vagina is a muscular tube that extends from the opening of the womb (cervix) to the folds of skin between a woman’s legs (vulva). Cancers affecting the vagina are rare. Fewer than 20 women are diagnosed with this type of cancer in Ireland each year. Vaginal cancer can start in the vagina itself (primary vaginal cancer) or spread into the vagina from another part of the body (secondary vaginal cancer). The most common symptoms of vaginal cancer are a blood-stained vaginal discharge, bleeding after sexual intercourse and pain. Diagnosis is made by taking a biopsy. A small sample of tissue will be taken from any abnormal areas for examination under a microscope.