A fistula is an abnormal opening between organs or other structures in the body. Fistulas appear most often in the area of the pelvis.

Fistulas are a rare side effect of cancer treatment. They may also develop as a result of cancer growing.

Symptoms of a fistula depend on where it is located. Common symptoms include:

  • leaking urine through the vagina or back passage
  • bowel movements or gas through the vagina
  • unpleasant-smelling vaginal discharge

The tests required to determine if you have a fistula depend on the part of the body that is affected, and may include the following:

  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • contrast X-rays

Treatment for a fistula depends on what is causing the fistula. Fistula recovery takes a long time, and some patients do not recover fully. However, successful control of symptoms is often possible.

You may feel embarrassed or worried about the fistula you have. However, you are likely much more aware of it than others. Talking about it can help.