Symptoms and Signs of Vaginal Cancer

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/8/2021

Doctor's Notes on Vaginal Cancer

Vaginal cancer occurs when the cells of the surface of vagina start to grow abnormally. There are two main types of vaginal cancer:

  1. Squamous cell carcinoma forms in the thin, flat cells lining the vagina. Squamous cell vaginal cancer spreads slowly and usually stays near the vagina, but may spread to the lungsliver, or bone. This is the most common type of vaginal cancer. 
  2. Adenocarcinoma begins in glandular cell 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

Vaginal cancer often does not cause early signs or symptoms. When they do occur, symptoms of vaginal cancer include:

  • bleeding or discharge not related to menstrual periods,
  • pain during sexual intercourse, 
  • pelvic pain,
  • a lump in the vagina,
  • pain when urinating, and 
  • constipation.

What Is the Treatment for Vaginal Cancer?

Treatment for vaginal cancer depends on the stage of the tumor, or the extent to which it has spread in the body at the time of diagnosis.

  • Most vaginal cancers are treated with surgery and radiation therapy.
  • In some cases, chemotherapy may be given along with radiation therapy
  • Clinical trials to study new treatments or combinations of treatments are another option for the treatment of vaginal cancer

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.