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Further tests

If the above tests show that you have a vaginal cancer, further tests may be necessary to find out whether any cancer cells have spread (metastasised) to other parts of the body.

This is called staging. The results will help you and your doctor decide on the best treatment for you.

You may have one or more of the following tests:

Cystoscopy

Cystoscopy is a test that allows the doctor to look at the interior lining of the bladder and the urethra, to see if the cancer has spread to this region. The cystoscope is a slender tube with a lens and a light that is inserted into the urethra and moved into the bladder.

Chest x-ray and blood tests

These are necessary to assess your general health and to check whether there is a possibility of the cancer having spread to the lungs.

CT scan

A CT (computerised tomography) scan is a series of x-rays that build up a three-dimensional picture of the inside of the body. The scan is painless and takes between 10 and 30 minutes.

Before the scan you will be asked to drink a special liquid that shows up on x-ray. You may also need to have an injection of a contrast medium into a vein in your arm.

You will lie flat on a table while the CT scanner, which is large and round like a doughnut, rotates around you and takes a series of pictures.

People who are allergic to iodine may also be allergic to the dye used in a CT or MRI scan. If you think you may have such an allergy, tell your doctor before the scan.

MRI scan

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is similar to a CT scan, but uses a magnetic field to build up cross-sectional pictures of inside the body.

Some people are given an injection of dye into a vein in the arm to improve the image.

During the test you will be asked to lie very still on a couch inside a long chamber for up to an hour.

An MRI scan is painless, but some people find that lying in the cylinder can be noisy and claustrophobic. If you feel uncomfortable, you can communicate with the technologist who is carrying out the scan through a microphone and speaker inside the scanner. You will also be able to see the technologist through a window.

Ureteroscopy

A procedure to look inside the ureters to check for abnormal areas. A ureteroscope is inserted through the bladder and into the ureters. A ureteroscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease. A ureteroscopy and cystoscopy may be done during the same procedure.

Proctoscopy

A procedure to look inside the rectum to check for abnormal areas. A proctoscope is inserted through the rectum. A proctoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease.

Lymphangiogram

A procedure used to x-ray the lymph system. A dye is injected into the lymph vessels in the feet. The dye travels upward through the lymph nodes and lymph vessels and x-rays are taken to see if there are any blockages. This test helps find out whether cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.