Chemotherapy for vaginal cancer
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. It is usually given if the vaginal cancer is advanced or returns after treatment, and may be combined with surgery or radiation therapy.
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How is it given?
The drugs are usually given by injection into a vein (intravenously) and sometimes as tablets. You will usually have several treatment sessions, with rest periods in between. Together, the session and rest period are called a cycle. Treatment is usually given to you during day visits to a hospital or clinic as an outpatient. Rarely, you may need to stay in hospital for a few nights.
Most people have some side effects from chemotherapy. There are many different types of chemotherapy drugs, and the side effects will vary depending on the drugs you are given. Your medical oncologist or nurse will discuss the likely side effects with you, including how they can be prevented or controlled with medicine.
Common side effects experienced after chemotherapy for vaginal cancer include:
- feeling sick (nausea)
- tiredness (fatigue)
- hair loss
- reduced resistance to infections.
Chemotherapy may also increase any skin soreness caused by radiation therapy. Some people find that they are able to lead a fairly normal life during their treatment, while others become very tired and need to take things more slowly.
For more on this, see our general section on Managing chemotherapy side effects.
Video: What is chemotherapy?
Learn more about chemotherapy in this short video.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
A/Prof Alison Brand, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Ellen Barlow, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Royal Hospital for Women, NSW; Jane Conroy-Wright, Consumer; Rebecca James, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Suparna Karpe, Clinical Psychologist, Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Dr Pearly Khaw, Consultant Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Sally McCoull, Consumer; A/Prof Orla McNally, Gynaecological Oncologist and Director, Oncology/Dysplasia, The Royal Women’s Hospital, and Director, Gynaecology Tumour Stream,Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, VIC; Haley McNamara, Social Worker and Project Manager, Care at End of Life Project, Queensland Health, QLD; Tamara Wraith, Senior Clinician – Physiotherapy, The Royal Women’s Hospital, VIC.
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