(Cancer of the Vagina)
by Amy Scholten, MPH
Vaginal cancer is a rare growth of cancer cells in the vagina. The vagina is a tube that connects the vulva (outer female genitals) to the cervix (lower end of the uterus).
There are several types of vaginal cancer:
Cancer happens when cells divide without control or order. These cells grow together to form a tumor. They can invade and damage nearby tissues. They can also spread to other parts of the body.
It is not clear what causes changes in the cells. It is likely a combination of genes and environment.
Vaginal cancer is more common in women after menopause. Other things that may raise the risk are:
Vaginal cancer may not have symptoms. When symptoms occur, they may be:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical and pelvic exam will be done.
Tests may include
Imaging tests may include:
Biopsy will confirm the diagnosis. The exam and test results will be used for staging. This will outline how far and fast the cancer has spread.
The goal is to remove the cancer. Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer. A combination of treatments may be used.
Options may be:
The risk of vaginal cancer may be reduced by the HPV vaccine.
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
Canadian Cancer Society
Women's Health Matters—Women's College Hospital
Adams TS, Cuello MA. Cancer of the vagina. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2018;143 Suppl 2:14-21.
General information about vaginal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at:https://www.cancer.gov/types/vaginal/patient/vaginal-treatment-pdq. Accessed March 18, 2021.
Squamous cell carcinoma of vagina. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/squamous-cell-carcinoma-of-vagina. Accessed March 18, 2021.
Vaginal cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Accessed March 18, 2021.
Vaginal cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
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Accessed March 18, 2021.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 3/18/2021
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