Vaginal Cancer Symptoms & Treatment

Learning you or someone you love has vaginal cancer is upsetting. Likely, you don't know anyone who has this type of cancer. It's not a common cancer. But rest assured. At UVA Health, you'll find cancer doctors who are experts in vaginal cancer symptoms, types, and treatment.

Vaginal Cancer Treatment at UVA Health

At UVA Health, you'll find doctors who focus on treating cancers that affect a woman's reproductive organs, including the vagina. These gynecologic oncologists will oversee all aspects of your vaginal cancer treatment.

They use the latest surgical techniques to help you recover faster. Their expertise is unmatched. And part of the reason why UVA Health is Virginia's only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Learn what this means for you.

Find Experts at Diagnosing Your Type of Vaginal Cancer

At UVA Health, our doctors are experts at diagnosing your exact type and stage of vaginal cancer. This requires expertise and the latest tools. Things you'll find at a Comprehensive Cancer Center.

A correct diagnosis is key. It ensures you get the best possible treatment. In addition to surgery, you may need

What Is Vaginal Cancer?

Vaginal cancer happens when malignant (cancer) cells form in the vagina. This is the birth canal leading from the uterus to the outside of the body. 

There are 2 main types of vaginal cancer:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: The most common type, this cancer forms in squamous cells (thin, flat cells lining the vagina). Squamous cell vaginal cancer spreads slowly and usually stays near the vagina. But it may spread to the lungs, liver, or bone. 
     
  • Adenocarcinoma: This cancer begins in glandular (secretory) cells. Glandular cells in the lining of the vagina make and release fluids such as mucus. Adenocarcinoma is more likely than squamous cell cancer to spread to the lungs and lymph nodes.

    A rare type of adenocarcinoma is linked to being exposed to the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) before birth. Adenocarcinomas not linked to DES are most common in women after menopause.

What Are Vaginal Cancer Symptoms?

Vaginal cancer often does not cause early signs. It may be found during a routine pelvic exam and Pap test. Signs and symptoms may be caused by vaginal cancer or by another condition.

Check with your doctor if you have any of the following possible vaginal cancer symptoms:

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

Who's at Risk for Vaginal Cancer?

These can affect a woman's risk of getting vaginal cancer. 

  • Being 60 or older
  • History of cervical cancer
  • History of precancerous conditions in the cervix or vagina
  • Having a mother who took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant
  • Human papillomavirus infection (HPV)
  • Having had a hysterectomy for health problems that affect the uterus.

Support Along the Cancer Journey

If you're just beginning on your cancer journey, you have a lot of questions. Your care providers are always happy to answer all of your questions. Start your journey here with helpful information