Vaginal cancer is any type of cancer that forms in the tissues of the vagina. Vaginal cancer is not common. It occurs primarily in women over age 50, but can occur at any age, even in infancy. When found and treated in early stages (see cancer staging), it often can be cured.
Types of vaginal cancer, in order of prevalence, include:
Vaginal squamous cell carcinoma arises from the thin, flat squamous cells that line the vagina. This is the most common type of vaginal cancer. It is found most often in women aged 60 or older.
Vaginal adenocarcinoma arises from the glandular (secretory) cells in the lining of the vagina that produce some vaginal fluids. Adenocarcinoma is more likely than squamous cell cancer to spread to the lungs and lymph nodes. It is found most often in women aged 30 or younger, and has been found in a small percent of women whose mothers in the 1950s used diethylstilbestrol to prevent threatened abortions.
Vaginal germ cell tumors (primarily teratoma and endodermal sinus tumor) are rare. They are found most often in infants and children.
The most common sign is abnormal vaginal bleeding, which may be postcoital, intermenstrual, prepubertal, or postmenopausal. Other, less specific signs include difficult or painful urination, pain during intercourse, and pain in the pelvic area.
Several tests are used to diagnose vaginal cancer, including: