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Vaginal cancer

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Reconstruction for vaginal cancer

Reconstructive surgery helps restore the structure and function of the vagina. A woman with vaginal cancer may be offered reconstructive procedures.

If the vagina has been removed, a new vagina may be built. The vagina may be reconstructed at the same time as the vaginectomy or pelvic exenteration. Many women have vaginal reconstruction, especially if they want to continue to have sexual intercourse or feel it is important for their body image and quality of life.

There are different ways to rebuild the vagina, using different tissues:

  • skin grafts
  • pieces of intestine
  • flaps of muscle from the abdominal wall
  • flaps of muscle and skin from the inner thighs

The surgeon shapes the flaps and skin and sews them into the area where the vagina was. Once it heals, the newly created vagina is much the same size and shape as the woman’s original vagina.

A reconstructed vagina (called a neovagina) does not make the natural lubricants that a normal vagina does. These natural lubricants help keep the vagina clean and also help moisten the vagina during sex. After surgery, the woman will be taught how to manage vaginal dryness.

Women are encouraged to continue regular intercourse after their surgery or to use a vaginal dilator to maintain the shape and function of the neovagina.

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