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.