Vaginal Cancer

Vaginal Cancer Awareness Month & Ribbon
Month September
Ribbon Burgundy & Ivory Color


Uncontrolled malignant cell formation in your birth canal causes vaginal cancer. Mostly it affects the cells which contour the surface of your vaginal. Though other type of cancers can spread to the vagina, the cancer that originates in the vagina is called vaginal cancer. The two types of vaginal cancer are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Vaginal cancer is generally curable if detected early.

Signs and Symptoms of vaginal cancer:

Do consult your doctor if you witness following signs and symptoms of vaginal cancer:

  • Bleeding or discharge from vagina (not associated with menstrual periods)
  • Discomfort during sexual interaction
  • Pain in the pelvic region
  • Lump in the vagina

Causes of vaginal cancer:

Understanding the causes of vaginal cancer is close to preventing it. The following are some major causes of vaginal cancer:

  • Advanced age (60 or more)
  • Exposure to drugs such as diethylstilbestrol (DES). This medicine is given to pregnant women to prevent miscarriage. But contact with this medicine while in the mother’s womb may also be a risk factor for vaginal cancer.
  • Getting infected with human papilloma virus (HPV)
  • History of cervical cancer or anomalous cells in the cervix

Treatment options for vaginal cancer:

Depending upon patient’s medical condition, type and stage of vaginal cancer doctors may suggest following treatment options:

  • Surgery: Malignant cells are removed from the vagina by surgery. If required, complete vagina is removed and a new vagina is constructed using parts of other organs by surgery.
  • Radiation therapy: High-powered energy beams kills the cancerous cells.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemicals are used to destroy cancer cells. Generally, chemotherapy is used during radiation therapy to increase the effectiveness of radiation.
  • Clinical trials: New and advanced treatment methods are applied to treat vagina cancer

Tests and Procedures to detect vaginal cancer:

If you visit the doctor after experiencing signs and symptoms of vaginal cancer, the doctor may conduct following examinations for proper diagnosis of vaginal cancer:

  • Physical examination:

The doctor checks for any unusual signs of disease or lumps in vagina. Gynecologist asks you about your general health habits and medical history.

  • Pelvic test (examination of vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and rectum):

While conducting pelvic test, the doctor inserts one or two gloved and lubricated fingers of one hand into the vagina and places the other hand over lower abdomen. She feels the size, shape and location of the uterus and ovaries. She also checks the vagina and cervix for any signs of vaginal cancer by inserting a speculum into the vagina. In addition to it, a Pap test (collection of cells from the exterior of the cervix and vagina with the help of a piece of cotton or a brush) of cervix is generally done and the rectum is also checked by inserting lubricated and gloved finger into it.

  • Biopsy:

A sample of tissue from the affected area is collected and checked under microscope for signs of vaginal cancer. This process is done during a colposcopy. It is a process where a lighted and magnifying device called colposcope is inserted into the vagina to check the vagina and the cervix. Then only tissue sample is collected with the help of a curette (spoon-shaped instrument).

  • Imaging tests:

Imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans, MRI scans may be suggested to determine the stage of the cancer.

Treatment Cost of vaginal cancer:

You may have to spend approximately $32,000 towards treatment cost of vaginal cancer. This amount includes stay of the patient, food, doctor fee, medication, treatment and nursing. However, the amount varies in different locations and it also depends on the health care system you have taken up.

Preventive Measures for vaginal cancer:

If you are at an increased risk of vaginal cancer, you can prevent this disease by doing following things:

  • Regular Pap smear test
  • Give up both direct and passive smoking
  • Lessen number of sexual partners (if you have many)
  • Have a protected sexual intercourse using condoms
  • Getting HPV vaccine at an early age before you become sexually active

Side Effects of treatment of vaginal cancer:

Different treatment methods of vaginal cancer have different side effects on the patient. The following are some of main side effects:

  • Pain, bleeding or watery ejection
  • Changes in skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Trouble urinating
  • Mouth sores
  • Reduced appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle ache
  • Low resistance to infection

Most of these side effects are temporary and can be tackled easily with proper guidance. However, treatment of vaginal cancer may affect sexual function of women to some extent. You should consult with your doctor about these issues.


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