Introduction of Vaginal cancer

Vaginal cancer is a rare type of cancer. There are around 260 new cases of vaginal cancer diagnosed in the UK each year.

The most common symptom of vaginal cancer is painless bleeding from the vagina. See your GP if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • You experience any abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding between periods or bleeding after sex.
  • You experience vaginal bleeding and you have already had the menopause.
  • Your usual pattern of periods has changed, such as having irregular periods or heavier periods than usual.
  • You experience problems with urination, such as pain when urinating.

While it is highly unlikely that any of these symptoms are due to vaginal cancer, they will still need to be investigated by your GP.

Read more about the symptoms of vaginal cancer.

Treating vaginal cancer

Vaginal cancer can be treated with a combination of radiotherapy, surgery and chemotherapy. Read more about treating vaginal cancer.

Your chances of making a recovery depend on how far advanced your cancer is when it is diagnosed. Vaginal cancer is given stages from 1 to 4, with stage 1 being the least advanced and stage 4 meaning that the cancer has spread beyond your pelvis. Read more about diagnosing vaginal cancer.

Around 9 out of 10 women with stage 1 vaginal cancer live for more than five years after being diagnosed. For women with stage 4 vaginal cancer, around a fifth live for more than five years.

The outlook for vaginal cancer is also slightly better for women who are under 60 when the cancer is diagnosed, and for those who have good health overall.

Read more about vaginal cancer statistics from Cancer Research UK.

Who’s at risk?

The exact causes of vaginal cancer are unknown, but possible risk factors include:

  • smoking
  • your age – 7 out of 10 cases of vaginal cancer are in women over 60
  • being infected with a particularly persistent type of the human papilloma virus (HPV)

Since September 2008 there has been a national programme to vaccinate girls aged 12 to 13 against HPV. Read more about the HPV vaccination, including who can have it and how it is given.

Read more about the causes of vaginal cancer and preventing vaginal cancer.

Types of vaginal cancer

There are two main types of vaginal cancer:

  • primary vaginal cancer, where the cancer begins inside the vagina  
  • secondary vaginal cancer, where the cancer begins in another part of the body (usually the reproductive system), such as the cervix (neck of the womb) and then spreads to the vagina 

The rest of this topic will focus on primary vaginal cancer. Read more about cervical cancerovarian cancer and cancer of the womb

Primary vaginal cancer

There are three main types of primary vaginal cancer, depending on the type of cells that the cancer begins in.

Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of vaginal cancer, accounting for more than 9 out of 10 cases.

Adenocarcinoma accounts for around 1 in 10 cases of vaginal cancer. A very rare type of adenocarcinoma, called clear cell adenocarcinoma, can sometimes affect teenagers and women in their twenties.

Melanoma is also rare and accounts for around 3 in 100 cases of vaginal cancer.

Common questions about cancer answered

Am I more at risk if my relatives have cancer? 
What do cancer stages and grades mean?
What are cancer treatment trials and how do I find out more about these?
How do I tell people that I’ve got cancer?

Want to know more?

Comments are closed.