What is Vaginal Melanoma?Vaginal melanoma is an extraordinarily rare and aggressive form of cancer that develops from the pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) in the vagina. Melanomas are more commonly associated with the skin, and vaginal melanoma represents only a small fraction of all melanoma cases. The disease typically affects postmenopausal women, and its rarity means our understanding of its aetiology, ideal treatment approaches, and prognosis remains somewhat limited.
Disease Aetiology (Causes)The exact cause of vaginal melanoma is not known. Melanomas typically occur when something goes wrong in the melanocytes. Certain gene mutations and environmental factors can contribute to the development of melanoma. However, unlike cutaneous melanoma, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation does not appear to be a risk factor for vaginal melanoma.
DiagnosisDiagnosis of vaginal melanoma often involves:
- Detailed medical history and physical examination
- Biopsy of suspicious tissues
- Imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI to ascertain the size, location, and extent of the tumour
TreatmentThe treatment for vaginal melanoma typically involves a combination of strategies:
- Surgery: The primary treatment involves the surgical removal of the tumour. In some cases, lymph nodes in the area may also be removed.
- Radiation Therapy: This can be used before surgery to shrink the tumour, or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy: Can be used in combination with surgery and radiation therapy, particularly in more advanced cases or if the cancer recurs.
- Targeted Therapy and Immunotherapy: These are newer treatments that target specific genes or proteins in cancer cells or stimulate the body’s immune system to fight the cancer.