Vaginal Cancer Information
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What Is Vaginal Cancer?
Vaginal cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the tissues of the vagina, also known as the birth canal. The vagina is a 3- to 4-inch tube that connects the cervix (the opening of the womb or uterus) and the vulva (the folds of skin around the opening to the vagina).
Vaginal cancer is rare, and the American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 2,700 women in the United States will be diagnosed with this form of cancer each year.
Types of Vaginal Cancer
There are two primary types of vaginal cancer:
- Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of vaginal cancer, accounting for 70 percent of cases. These cancers develop from the thin, flat epithelial cells that line the surface of the vagina. Squamous cell carcinomas of the vagina tend to grow slowly and may develop from a precancerous condition known as vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN), in which abnormal cells can be found in the very top surface of the vaginal lining.
- Adenocarcinoma accounts for approximately 15 percent of vaginal cancers. These cancers begin in the gland cells of the vagina. They occur most frequently in older woman over the age of 50, but a specific subtype known as clear-cell adenocarcinoma may occur in younger women whose mothers were exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) while they were pregnant.
Other types of cancers, such as melanomas and sarcomas, may also occur in the vagina. In addition, certain cancers may spread to the vagina from their original site, such as uterine, cervical, rectal or bladder cancers. These cancers are treated according to the primary cancer type.
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