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What is a Vaginectomy?

Nicole Madison
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A vaginectomy is a surgery used to remove a woman’s vagina. It can be used to remove all of a woman’s vagina tissue or just part of it. In most cases, the vagina is removed as a treatment for cancer; the procedure may be also be used, however, as part of the process of sexual reassignment. When all of a woman's vagina is removed, the procedure is called a radical vaginectomy; procedures in which the upper portion of the vagina is removed are referred to as partial vaginectomies.

Cancer is the primary reason a woman’s vagina may be removed during this procedure. In many cases, it is performed in conjunction with a total or partial hysterectomy. Typically, a vaginectomy is not a surgeon’s first choice of treatment. Instead, it is often recommended when vaginal cancer reoccurs and other treatment options have been exhausted.

Many people may wonder how it is possible to remove someone’s vagina. This can be difficult to envision. Doctors can, however, detach the muscular and tissue structure that make up the vagina from its surrounding tissues and pull it out of the body, leaving nearby organs, such as the bladder, intact. In many cases, surgeons perform abdominal hysterectomies at the same time as radical vaginectomies.

After a radical vaginectomy is performed, doctors typically take steps to reconstruct a vagina for the patient. This is usually accomplished using tissues and muscles from other parts of the patient’s body and is typically referred to as a vaginoplasty. If the purpose of the vaginectomy is to facilitate a sex-change process, however, surgeons may instead close the vaginal canal surgically.

In some cases, doctors don’t deem it necessary to remove all of a woman’s vagina. Instead, they may remove only part of it; sometimes they may remove her uterus, the tissues responsible for supporting the uterus, and the cervix as well. Often, surgeries to remove the uterus, cervix and upper part of the vagina are referred to as radical hysterectomies.

While a vaginectomy may be necessary as a treatment for cancer or as part of a sex-reassignment operation, there are risks involved. For example, a patient may experience excessive bleeding during this type of operation or suffer a bad reaction to the anesthesia. Pain, infection, and blood clots may develop as well. As far as long-term effects of the surgery are concerned, patients may experience scarring, impaired ability to experience an orgasm, and swelling of the legs, thighs, and groin. This swelling can sometimes develop months or years after a person has the surgery.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison , Writer
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By anon991607 — On Jul 03, 2015

Bit weird that the image illustrating sex reassignment shows a bearded male applying make up. Trans men (that's female-to-male, so, you know, the ones who would be having a vaginectomy) don't tend to wear make-up, at least not any more than you'd expect any other man to wear make-up -- I certainly wouldn't expect to see it in an image symbolising their transition, since looking less womanly is the goal, and applying make-up tends to undermine that effort, you know? Bizarre choice.

By candyquilt — On Aug 25, 2013

@turquoise-- I hope that she doesn't need a vaginectomy and if she does, I hope it's only a partial vaginectomy. A partial removal is easier to do and recovery is faster.

By bear78 — On Aug 24, 2013

@turquoise-- My cousin had this surgery, but he was a hermaphrodite. He was born with both male and female organs and when he was twenty, he decided to have a vaginectomy and a reconstruction of his male organ.

All I know from his surgery is that he lost a lot of blood. We visited him in the hospital the next day and found out that he had to be given three bags of blood! But I'm sure that not everyone experiences so much bleeding.

Everything else was fine though, he didn't have any complications and he has healed perfectly well. He does everything that a normal male can do.

I realize that his situation is unique though. A woman who has a vaginectomy will have a different experience.

By turquoise — On Aug 24, 2013

So what happens after a vaginectomy and vaginoplasty? Is the woman able to urinate and engage in intercourse normally?

A close friend of mine has been diagnosed with cancer. She will be undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy. But she said that the cancer is at an advanced stage and there is a possibility that she will have to go through a total vaginectomy.

Has anyone here gone through a vaginectomy? Or a loved one? Can you share your experiences?

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison

Writer

Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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