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Because vaginal cancer is rare, it's has been hard to study it well. Most experts agree that treatment in a clinical trial should be considered for any type or stage of vaginal cancer. This way women can get the best treatment available now and may also get the treatments that are thought to be even better. Many of the new and promising treatments discussed here are only available in clinical trials.
Scientists are learning more about how certain genes called oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes control cell growth and how changes in these genes cause normal vaginal cells to become cancer. They're also studying how the gene changes caused by HPV might be used to target treatment on the cancer cells.
Studies are under way to determine the best way to use external beam therapy and brachytherapy to treat vaginal cancer and limit damage to normal tissue. Doctors are also looking for ways to use more focused radiation along with other treatments, like immunotherapy, to treat advanced vaginal cancers.
Surgeons are looking for new and better ways to repair the vagina after radical surgery.
Many clinical trials are looking for better drugs to treat vaginal cancer, as well as if combining chemotherapy with radiation therapy is better than radiation therapy alone.
The vaginal walls can become stiff and tight after radiation. Researchers are looking for ways to prevent this, limit it, and better treat it.
Removing lymph nodes near the cancer can lead to a life-long problem of swelling in the legs called lymphedema. Studies are being done to see if sentinel lymph node mapping (a process used to identify lymph nodes with cancer) might work for women with vaginal cancer.
The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Last Revised: March 19, 2018
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