Prognosis and survival for vaginal cancer
If you have vaginal cancer, you may have questions about your prognosis. A prognosis is the doctor’s best estimate of how cancer will affect someone and how it will respond to treatment. Prognosis and survival depend on many factors. Only a doctor familiar with your medical history, the type, stage and characteristics of your cancer, the treatments chosen and the response to treatment can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.
A prognostic factor is an aspect of the cancer or a characteristic of the person that the doctor will consider when making a prognosis. A predictive factor influences how a cancer will respond to a certain treatment. Prognostic and predictive factors are often discussed together. They both play a part in deciding on a treatment plan and a prognosis.
The following are prognostic and predictive factors for vaginal cancer.
The most important prognostic factor for vaginal cancer is the stage of the disease. The earlier the stage, the more favourable the prognosis.
Tumour size, tumour volume and local extent
Tumour size is the tumour’s widest part, or greatest dimension. Tumour volume refers to all 3 dimensions of the tumour – its height, width and thickness. Data shows that smaller tumour size and volume is a more favourable prognostic factor than larger tumour size and volume.
Local extent is how far the tumour grows into the wall of the vagina and into surrounding tissues. The farther the tumour has grown into the wall of the vagina and surrounding tissue, the less favourable the prognosis.
Type of tumour
The type of vaginal tumour is an important prognostic factor. Squamous cell carcinoma has a more favourable prognosis than other tumour types, such as vaginal melanoma. Clear cell carcinoma in women whose mothers took diethylstilbestrol while pregnant appears to have a better prognosis than other types of adenocarcinomas.
Low-grade tumours, which grow slower and are less likely to spread, have a more favourable prognosis.
Spread to lymph nodes
Vaginal cancer that has not spread to lymph nodes has a better prognosis than vaginal cancer that has spread to lymph nodes.
Location of the tumour
Tumours in the middle and lower third of the vagina or those on the back wall of the vagina have a less favourable prognosis.
Women who have symptoms at the time of diagnosis tend to have a less favourable prognosis.
Age and general health
Younger women tend to have a better outlook than women older than 60. Women who have good general health other than the cancer also tend to have a better prognosis.
Great progress has been made
Some cancers, such as thyroid and testicular, have survival rates of over 90%. Other cancers, such as pancreatic, brain and esophageal, continue to have very low survival rates.