Vaginal cancer is a form of cancer in which the abnormal cell growth originates in the vagina.
About Vaginal Cancer
The vagina is a muscular canal that extends from the external genitalia (vulva) to the cervix. The vagina has important roles in childbirth, menstruation, and sex. The vagina is comprised of several different types of tissue. Cancer can develop in any of these cell types, though some tissue is more vulnerable to cancer than others.
Types of Vaginal Cancer
Vaginal cancer is classified based on the vaginal tissue in which the condition first develops.
Types of vaginal cancer include:
- Squamous cell carcinoma: The most common form of vaginal cancer, originating in cells known as squamous cells in the vagina’s epithelial lining. Vaginal squamous cell carcinoma is sometimes preceded by a precancerous condition called vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VaIN).
- Adenocarcinoma: Cancer of the vaginal gland cells.
- Melanoma: Cancer in the cells that give skin its pigment .
- Sarcoma: Cancer that begins in connective tissue of the vagina.
Symptoms of Vaginal Cancer
Vaginal cancer may not have symptoms during initial stages, so routine gynecologic exams are crucial to identify the condition early.
Symptoms of vaginal cancer may include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding (unrelated to menstruation)
- A lump in the vagina
- Pelvic pain
- Pain associated with urination and/or sexual intercourse
Risk Factors for Vaginal Cancer
Vaginal cancer is a relatively uncommon gynecologic cancer, but certain risk factors make the condition more likely.
Risk factors for vaginal cancer may include:
- Health history: Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection or a history of cervix or vulvar cancer increases vaginal cancer risk.
Diagnosing Vaginal Cancer
If a doctor has reason to suspect vaginal cancer based on abnormalities during a pelvic exam, they will perform a biopsy, collecting vaginal tissue for examination by a pathologist. In some cases, your doctor may utilize imaging methods such as ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect vaginal cancer.
Treating Vaginal Cancer
Your treatment will depend on your type of vaginal cancer, disease progression, and personal preference. Options may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of approaches. Your doctor will work with you to determine the best course of action.
Care Team Approach
Patients are cared for by a dedicated multidisciplinary care team, meaning you will benefit from the expertise of multiple specialists across a variety of disciplines. Our gynecologic oncologists work alongside a team of women’s health experts, including radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, oncofertility specialists, onco-psychiatrists, genetic counselors, physical therapists, dietitians, social workers, and more, to provide unparalleled care for patients every step of the way.
We collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to provide you with world-class, personalized cancer treatment. Depending on your specific needs, your treatment may include combinations of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and/or immunotherapy or other targeted therapy.
Learn More About Your Care Team
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