What Is Vaginal Cancer?

Vaginal cancer is a rare form of cancer that develops in your vagina, the muscular tube that connects the opening of your uterus, called the cervix, to the outside of your body. The cancer begins when normal cells in your vagina begin to change, grow uncontrollably and form a mass of cells called a tumor. If this tumor is found to be malignant, you have vaginal cancer. While other gynecological cancers can spread to your vagina, cancer that actually begins in your vagina is quite rare.

Types of vaginal cancer

There are several common types of vaginal cancer, including:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: The most common type of vaginal cancer, squamous cell carcinoma begins in the thin, flat cells that line the surface of your vagina. Approximately 70 percent of vaginal cancer cases are this type.
  • Adenocarcinoma: This type of cancer originates in the gland cells of your vagina, and typically occurs in woman over age 50.
  • Melanoma: This is a more serious type of skin cancer, which begins in the pigment-producing cells found in the vaginal skin.
  • Sarcoma: This vaginal cancer develops in the connective tissue under your skin.

Vaginal cancer often does not cause advanced signs or symptoms. Annual pelvic exams are key and allow your physician to detect signs of vaginal cancer early, when it is most treatable. When detected in an early stage, vaginal cancer can often be cured. Take an active role in your health and have regular pelvic exams.