Living as a Vaginal Cancer Survivor

For many women with vaginal cancer, treatment can remove or destroy the cancer. The end of treatment can be both stressful and exciting. You may be relieved to finish treatment, yet it’s hard not to worry about cancer coming back. This is very common if you’ve had cancer.

For other women, the cancer might never go away completely. Some women may get regular treatment with chemotherapy or other treatments to try and help keep the cancer in check. Learning to live with cancer that doesn't go away can be difficult and very stressful. 

Life after cancer means returning to some familiar things and also making some new choices.

Follow-up care

When treatment ends, your doctors will still want to watch you closely. It’s very important to go to all of your follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctors will ask questions about any problems you are having and may do pelvic exams and Pap tests, as well as colposcopy and lab tests to look for signs of cancer or treatment side effects. Almost any cancer treatment can have side effects. Some may last for a few weeks to months, but others can last the rest of your life. This is the time for you to talk to your cancer care team about any changes or problems you notice and any questions or concerns you have.

Treatment can leave vaginal tissue fragile and prone to injury. Follow-up will require checking these tissues for injury or tightening and scarring. Some women will be advised to use vaginal dilators, which a woman inserts in her vagina to gently stretch her vaginal tissue, gradually making it more elastic and normal over time. You can learn more in Treating Sexual Problems for Women With Cancer.

Ask your doctor for a survivorship care plan

Your survivorship care plan might include: 

  • A suggested schedule for follow-up exams and tests
  • A schedule for other tests you might need in the future, such as early detection (screening) tests for other types of cancer, or tests to look for long-term health effects from your cancer or its treatment
  • A list of possible late- or long-term side effects from your treatment, including what to watch for and when you should contact your doctor
  • Diet and physical activity suggestions
  • Reminders to keep your appointments with your primary care provider (PCP), who will monitor your general health care 

Keeping health insurance and copies of your medical records

Even after treatment, it’s very important to keep health insurance. Tests and doctor visits cost a lot, and even though no one wants to think of their cancer coming back, this could happen.

At some point after your cancer treatment, you might find yourself seeing a new doctor who doesn’t know about your medical history. It’s important to keep copies of your medical records to give your new doctor the details of your diagnosis and treatment. Learn more in Keeping Copies of Important Medical Records.

Can I lower my risk of the vaginal cancer progressing or coming back?

If you have (or have had) vaginal cancer, you probably want to know if there are things you can do that might lower your risk of the cancer growing or coming back, such as exercising, eating a certain type of diet, or taking nutritional supplements. Unfortunately, it’s not yet clear if there are things you can do that will help.

Adopting healthy behaviors such as not smokingeating wellgetting regular physical activity, and staying at a healthy weight might help, but no one knows for sure. However, we do know that these types of changes can have positive effects on your health that can extend beyond your risk of vaginal cancer or other cancers.

About dietary supplements

So far, no dietary supplements (including vitamins, minerals, and herbal products) have been shown to clearly help lower the risk of vaginal cancer progressing or coming back. This doesn’t mean that no supplements will help, but it’s important to know that none have been proven to do so.

Dietary supplements are not regulated like medicines in the United States – they do not have to be proven effective (or even safe) before being sold, although there are limits on what they’re allowed to claim they can do. If you’re thinking about taking any type of nutritional supplement, talk to your health care team. They can help you decide which ones you can use safely while avoiding those that might be harmful.

If the cancer comes back

If the cancer does come back or recur at some point, your treatment options will depend on where the cancer is located, what treatments you’ve had before, and your overall health. For more information on how recurrent cancer is treated, see Treatment Options for Vaginal Cancer by Stage and Type.

For more general information on recurrence, you may also want to see Understanding Recurrence.

Could I get a second cancer after treatment?

People who’ve had vaginal cancer can still get other cancers. In fact, vaginal cancer survivors are at higher risk for getting some other types of cancer. Learn more in Can I Get Another Cancer After Having Vaginal Cancer?

Getting emotional support

Some amount of feeling depressed, anxious, or worried is normal when cancer is a part of your life. Some people are affected more than others. But everyone can benefit from help and support from other people, whether friends and family, religious groups, support groups, professional counselors, or others. Learn more in Life After Cancer.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

American Society of Clinical Oncology. Vaginal Cancer: Follow-Up Care. 08/2017. Accessed at www.cancer.net/cancer-types/vaginal-cancer/follow-care on March 13, 2018.

Society of Gynecologic Oncology. What happen after treatment? Accessed at www.sgo.org/patients-caregivers-survivors/patients/vaginal-cancer-what-happens-after-treatment/ on March 13, 2018.

Last Medical Review: March 19, 2018 Last Revised: March 19, 2018

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