Vaginal Cancer

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About Vaginal Cancer

It is a rare type of cancer that arises in the vaginal tissues of women. It has two major types - squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Vaginal squamous cell carcinoma emerges from the squamous cells that border the vagina. It is the most common type of vaginal cancer and is found most often in women aged 60 or older.

On the other hand, vaginal adenocarcinoma ascends from the glandular cells in the lining of the vagina that produce some of the vaginal fluids. Adenocarcinoma is more likely to spread than squamous cell cancer.


Early stage cancer and precancerous lesions often don't produce symptoms but are detected during a routine exam. Later stage vaginal cancers are more likely to be associated with symptoms.

One of the most common symptoms is abnormal vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse; it is often one of the first symptoms to be evaluated. Vaginal bleeding in women after menopause is abnormal and should always be evaluated.

Other symptoms might include:

  • abnormal vaginal discharge
  • vaginal mass
  • difficulty or pain when urinating
  • constipation
  • pain during sex
  • pelvic pain
  • pain in the back of the legs or leg swelling

Causes of Vaginal Cancer

  • Age - those aged over 60 are at higher risk.
  • HPV infection - contracting the human papilloma virus ascends the risk.
  • Hysterectomy - women with a history of hysterectomy are statistically have more chances to get vaginal cancer.
  • A history of cervical cancer - cervical cancer diagnosis is a risk factor for vaginal cancer.
  • Previous radiation treatment - this can sometimes cause an increased likelihood of vaginal cancer.
  • Use of a vaginal pessary - use of these, such as during pelvic organ prolapse, is associated with an increase in risk.
  • Vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN) - these cells are different from normal cells, but not different enough to be classed as cancer cells. Sometimes, these cells can develop into cancer.

Vaginal Cancer Treatment

There could be various treatment options for the management of vaginal cancer. It is necessary for the patients to understand what to expect, possible side effects, and the risks and benefits of treatment.

Surgery is sometimes used to remove the cancer, but most patients are treated with radiation. If the tumor is cervical cancer that has spread to the vagina, or if it is at an advanced stage, radiation and chemotherapy are often given.

How to prevent vaginal cancer

  • Not having sexual intercourse until late teens or older.
  • Avoiding sexual intercourse with multiple partners.
  • Avoiding sexual intercourse with anyone who has had multiple partners.
  • Practicing safe sex (although condoms cannot fully protect against HPV).
  • Having regular Pap tests to find and treat precancerous conditions.
  • Stopping smoking or not starting in the first place.

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