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Vaginal Cancer

Vagina cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancerous) cells form in the vagina. While vaginal cancer is not common, there are two main types of vaginal cancer to be aware of:

Squamous cell carcinoma

This is cancer that forms in the think, flat cells lining the vagina. While this form usually spreads slowly and stays near the vagina, if left untreated, it can spread to the lungs, liver, or bones.


This cancer begins in the glandular cells in the lining of the vagina that make and release fluids. While this form is less common that Squamous Cell Carcinoma, it is more likely to spread to the lungs or lymph nodes.

Know Your Risk

Age and exposure to the drug DES (diethylstilbestrol) before birth can affect your risk of developing vaginal cancer. The following are risk factors that may increase your chances of developing vaginal cancer.

  • Women ages 60 and older
  • Exposure to DES while in your mother’s womb
  • Having human papilloma virus (HPV) infection
  • Having a history of abnormal cells in the uterus or cancer of the uterus
  • Having had a hysterectomy for health problems that affect the uterus.

Symptoms & Diagnosis

While vaginal cancer often does not cause any signs or symptoms early on, it can be found during your routine pelvic exam and Pap test. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms see your doctor right away.

  • Bleeding or discharge not related to menstrual periods
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Pain in the pelvic region
  • A lump in the vagina
  • Pain while urinating
  • Constipation

A Pap test, physical exam, and pelvic exam can be used as preliminary diagnostic tools. If your doctor notices something, more tests, such as biopsies and blood tests may be required. Treatment options will vary depending on the size and spread of the cancer. The Gynecologic Oncologist at Physicians East will work with you and your team of providers to determine the personalized treatment plan that’s right for you.