Vaginal Cancer, Causes, Signs & Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

“Vaginal cancer is a rare cancer that occurs in the vagina — the muscular tube that connects the uterus with the outer genitals. Vaginal cancer most commonly occurs in the cells that line the surface of the vagina. And while several types of cancer can spread to the vagina from other places in the body, cancer that begins in the vagina (primary vaginal cancer) is rare” [1]

Risk factors

Various aspects increase your chance of contracting vaginal cancer. These include:

•Aging:Your risk of vaginal cancer rises as you get older. The majority of patients who receive a diagnosis, aged 60-plus
•Atypical cells in the vagina: Being diagnosed with VAIN (vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia) raises your chances of having vaginal cancer [1].

Other risk factors which are associated with a greater chance of acquiring vaginal cancer, comprise:
•Being infected with HIV
•Having your first sexual intercourse at an early age
•Being active with more than one sexual partner [1].

Signs & Symptoms

As with other cancers, early-stage diagnosis of vaginal cancer is crucial for the best chance of a cure. Conversely, if the vaginal cancer metastasises (spreads) outside the vagina, it is far more complex to treat [1].

When it comes to checking for signs and symptoms of vaginal cancer, to make matters difficult: if someone has this condition, they may not actually have any signs or symptoms. However, as the vaginal cancer advances, there may be:
•Irregular vaginal bleeding (e.g. after menopause or sexual intercourse)
•A mass or lump in the vagina
•Pelvic pain
•Frequent urination
•Painful urination
•Watery vaginal discharge [1]

Getting a Diagnosis

If you have any of the aforementioned potential signs or symptoms of vaginal cancer, book an in-person or online appointment with a Vulva Specialist as soon as possible. Time is of the essence, and even leaving matters for just a short time, could have a highly detrimental impact. You Vulva Doctor will review your medical history, ask you various pertinent questions, conduct an examination (if you have an in-person appointment) and then, if necessary, ask you to come in for some tests and a scan.


Treatment for vaginal cancer comprises:

• External and/or internal radiation therapy to the vagina. (This form of treatment may also be applied to the lymph nodes which are close to tumours within the lower part of the vagina)
• Surgery (pelvic exenteration or vaginectomy), either in conjunction with, or without radiation therapy
• Chemotherapy in conjunction with radiation therapy [2].


[1]. Mayo Clinic (2019). “Virginal Cancer.”

[2]. NIH. National Cancer Institute (2020). “patient Cancer Treatment.”