Cancer of the Vagina (Vaginal Cancer)
The vagina (birth canal) is a hollow tube about 3 to 4 inches long that leads from the opening of the uterus (womb) to the outside of the body.
When the cells of the tissue lining the vagina begin growing abnormally, the cells can become cancerous. This can lead to two types of vaginal cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The most common type of vaginal cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which starts in the thin, flat cells (epithelial cells) lining the vagina. This inner lining is also called the epithelium (or epithelial lining) because it is formed by epithelial cells.
Although about 70 of every 100 cases of vaginal cancer are squamous cell carcinomas, these cancers usually develop slowly and can often be detected early.
Another type of vaginal cancer is adenocarcinoma, which begins in the glandular cells in the lining of the vagina. About 15 out of every 100 cases of vaginal cancer are adenocarcinomas. The most common form of this cancer usually develops in women over the age of 50.
Women who have been diagnosed with cervical cancer are most at risk for developing squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Other contributing factors include vaginal irritation and human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, a common sexually transmitted disease.
Symptoms can include:
- Painless vaginal bleeding unrelated to menstrual cycles
- Vaginal discharge
- Painful or difficult urination
- Painful sexual intercourse
Regular gynecological examinations are the best way to diagnose cancer of the vagina.
Download the following document for more detailed information. If you are unable to open the PDF file you may need to Download Adobe Reader at http://get.adobe.com/reader/ .Everyone's Guide for Cancer Therapy: Vagina (PDF, 40k)