Vaginal adenosis is most commonly found in young women who had in utero exposure to DES and may coexist with a clear cell adenocarcinoma, though it rarely progresses to adenocarcinoma. Adenosis is replaced by squamous metaplasia, which occurs naturally, and requires follow-up but not removal.
Rarely, melanomas (often nonpigmented), sarcomas, or small-cell carcinomas have been described as primary vaginal cancers.
Patient prognosis depends primarily on the stage of disease, but survival is reduced among those who are older than 60 years, are symptomatic at the time of diagnosis, have lesions of the middle and lower third of the vagina, or have poorly differentiated tumors.
In addition, the length of vaginal wall involvement has been found to be associated with survival and stage of disease in vaginal SCC patients.
Non-DES-associated adenocarcinomas generally have a worse prognosis than SCC tumors, but DES-associated clear cell tumors have a relatively good prognosis. The natural history, prognosis, and treatment of other primary vaginal cancers (i.e., sarcoma, melanoma, lymphoma, and carcinoid tumors) are different and are not covered in this summary.
Therapeutic options depend on tumor stage; surgery and radiation therapy are highly effective in early stages, whereas radiation therapy is the primary treatment of more advanced stages. Chemotherapy has not been shown to be curative for advanced vaginal cancer, and there are no standard drug regimens.
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