What is vaginal cancer?
There are several types of vaginal cancer. The most common is squamous cell carcinoma, which begins in the lining of the vagina called the epithelium. Although vaginal cancer is rare, most cases of it are caused by an infection of human papillomavirus (HPV). The HPV vaccine may protect against vaginal cancer.
Some instances of abnormal cells are classified as vaginal pre-cancers (vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia, or VAIN). Others are diagnosed as invasive vaginal cancers. Each type is treated differently.
Cancers that start in the vagina are much less common than cancers that start in other organs (such as the cervix, uterus, rectum, or bladder) and then spread to the vagina.
More information about vaginal cancer (American Cancer Society)
What vaginal cancer is not
Vaginal cancer is not the same as cancers that start in other organs (such as the cervix, uterus, rectum, or bladder) and then spread to the vagina. Each gynecologic cancer has different symptoms, outlooks, and treatments.
It’s possible that you could have one or more of the following tests (not all of these will apply to your condition):
- Imaging: Computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or positron emission tomography (PET)
- Medical history and physical exam
- Pap test and HPV test
Depending on your unique set of conditions and how far the disease has spread, your treatment could include one or more of the following treatments (but not all of these will apply to your condition):
- Clinical trial
- Follow-up care including imaging, lab tests and physical exams
Your full team of care providers work closely together to review your diagnostic tests and identify the best course of treatment particular to you. Your team helps you understand your diagnosis and what to expect with any treatment you have.