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Vaginal cancer is a rare cancer that begins in your vagina. The vagina is the muscular tube leading from the cervix (the opening of uterus) to the outside of the body, and is also called the birth canal. The best chance for a cure is early diagnosis of vaginal cancer.
Vaginal Cancer: What You Need to Know
Once a woman begins to have a monthly period, she should have a yearly pelvic exam that includes a Pap test. During this test, your doctor collects some cervical cells looking for cell changes, but sometimes vaginal cancer cells can be detected.
Vaginal cancer is best managed by a group of specialists that include gynecologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, nurses and patient support specialists. Our physicians and other support staff work together as a team, providing expert care.
Because the University of Vermont Medical Center is an academic hospital, we offer you and your family access to the latest treatments and technologies - including the precision of robotic surgery.
Experienced, Trusted Expertise
Women facing vaginal cancer benefit from our close partnership with the University of Vermont Cancer Center, where most of our cancer doctors regularly dedicate part of their time to developing more effective means of discovering and treating cancer. This means that your doctor has some of the most up-to-date information, which translates into better care for you and your family.
What is Vaginal Cancer?
Typically, vaginal cancer happens in the cells that line the surface of your vagina.
Several types of cancer can spread to your vagina from other places in your body, but cancer that begins in your vagina (called primary vaginal cancer) is rare. Then, if the primary vaginal cancer spreads beyond your vagina, it is much more difficult to treat.
There may be no early signs of vaginal cancer. Once the cancer progresses, vaginal cancer symptoms can include:
Abnormal vaginal bleeding, not related to menstrual periods, such as after menopause or directly after intercourse
- Watery vaginal discharge
- A vaginal lump or mass
- Painful urination
- Pain during intercourse
- Pelvic pain
The exact cause of vaginal cancer is unknown. However, several factors may increase your risk of developing it, including:
- Age: The risk of vaginal cancer increases as you age. Most vaginal cancer diagnoses happen to women who are over the age of 60
- Vaginal Intraepithelial Neoplasia (VAIN): In VAIN, vaginal cells are different from normal vaginal cells, but not enough to be defined as cancer. HPV (human papillomavirus) causes VAIN. Ask your doctor about HPV vaccines
- DES (diethylstilbestrol) exposure before birth: DES was given as a miscarriage prevention drug in the 1950s. Women born to mothers who took DES have an increased risk of a rare form of vaginal cancer called clear cell adenocarcinoma
- Multiple sexual partners
- Early age at first intercourse
- Smoking: UVM Medical Center offers a quit smoking program
- HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection
Diagnosis and Treatment: Vaginal Cancer
The UVM Medical Center's physicians are highly trained in performing procedures to diagnose and treat vaginal cancer such as hysterectomy and colposcopy.
Learn more about vaginal cancer diagnosis and treatment.