Doctor examining vaginal cancer patient

Vaginal cancer

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was updated on July 20, 2022.

Vaginal cancer is a rare disease that develops in the tissues of the vagina, also known as the birth canal. Despite its low incidence, vaginal cancer has many types. According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in every 1,100 women will develop vaginal cancer in her lifetime. An estimated 8,650 women in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with the disease in 2024.

No vaginal cancer patient is the same. Get personalized treatment.

Vaginal cancer is such an important focus at City of Hope that each of our hospitals has a Gynecologic Cancer Center, focusing on the treatment of women with cancer of the reproductive organs.

Our gynecologic oncologists are trained and experienced in diagnosing and treating all stages of vaginal cancer. You will undergo a biopsy as part of the diagnostic process, which may also include a CT scan and/or an MRI. Our cancer experts will then develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your needs, preferences and goals, helping you make an informed decision about your care.

This overview will cover the basic facts about vaginal cancer, including:

If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of vaginal cancer and want to schedule an appointment for diagnostic testing, or if you’re interested in a second opinion on your vaginal cancer diagnosis and treatment plan, call us or chat online with a member of our team.

What causes vaginal cancer?

Who gets vaginal cancer?

Approximately 85 percent of the cases of vaginal cancer occur in women over the age of 40. Nearly half the cases occur in women aged 70 or older. Women who smoke or drink are at greater risk of vaginal cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, incidences of clear cell carcinoma caused by DES typically occur before age 30.


Heather C.

Cervical Cancer

"The best part is that they do a lot of the tough work—like setting up appointments and making sure the entire care team is communicating. I have enough to worry about, and I appreciated not having to worry about the other stuff. I could focus on fighting my cancer. "


More About HEATHER

Vaginal cancer types

Types of vaginal cancer may include:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma, which is the most common type of the disease, developing from the thin, flat cells that line the surface of the vagina, or from a precancerous condition called vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN), in which abnormal cells are found in the very top surface of the vaginal lining
  • Adenocarcinoma, which are cancer cells that begin in the glandular cells of the vagina and are more common in women after menopause
  • Melanomas
  • Sarcomas

Learn more about vaginal cancer types

Vaginal cancer symptoms

Diagnosing vaginal cancer

Procedures used for diagnosing vaginal cancer may include:

Learn more about diagnostic procedures for vaginal cancer

Vaginal cancer treatments

Diagnosis and treatment options at our City of Hope Gynecologic Cancer Centers

At City of Hope, we recognize that vaginal cancer, like other cancers of the female reproductive system, affect women in unique ways. That’s why we created the Women’s Cancer Center at our City of Hope Atlanta, Chicago and Phoenix hospitals, located around the country. At these specially designed centers, our multidisciplinary team of doctors and clinicians are singularly focused on screening, diagnosing and treating breast cancer and gynecologic cancers with a sense of urgency. Our supportive care services are designed to help address symptoms and side effects, to help you have the strength and stamina to continue your treatment and the quality of life to help you continue everyday activities throughout your cancer journey.

Within each Women’s Cancer Center, we offer patients with vaginal and other gynecologic patients even more specialized care at our Gynecologic Cancer Centers, where our care teams treat each patient’s specific cancer using standard-of-care and, when appropriate, innovative precision medicine treatments.

At our Gynecologic Cancer Centers, your care team works together, all under one roof, to recommend treatment plans based on your unique vaginal cancer diagnosis and needs. Our board-certified gynecologic oncologists have years of training and experience in the wide array of specialized surgical procedures, from vaginectomy, trachelectomy and hysterectomy to vaginal reconstruction.

Your care team also work closely with behavioral health, oncology rehabilitation, nutritional support and other supportive care providers to help ease and prevent cancer-related side effects, such as lymphedema, pelvic floor weakness, pain resulting from surgery and radiation therapy-related fatigue and skin soreness.