The vagina, also called the birth canal, is about four inches in length and spans the space between the cervix and the vulva. Its surface is lined by squamous cells and about 70 out of every 100 cases of vaginal cancer begin in these squamous cells. Glandular cells are also found beneath the surface layer of cells. Cancer in the glandular cells is called adenocarcinoma and accounts for about 15 out of every 100 cases of vaginal cancer.
Vaginal Cancer Risk Factors
Vaginal cancer is relatively rare. The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 2,890 new cases of the disease are diagnosed in the United States annually. Other cancers of the female reproductive system such as cervical cancer, endometrial cancer and ovarian cancer are more common.
Risk factors for vaginal cancer include:
- Being a woman over the age of 70
- Previously having been on a hormonal drug called diethylstilbestrol
- Having HPV (human papilloma virus)
- Having HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)
- Drinking alcohol heavily
Signs & Symptoms of Vaginal Cancer
See your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding (after intercourse, between periods or after menopause)
- Pain during intercourse
- A vaginal mass that can be felt
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
Vaginal Cancer Diagnosis
Regular well-woman exams, including Pap tests and pelvic exams, and cervical cancer screenings are often the best ways to find vaginal cancer in its early stages. Many vaginal cancers begin as pre-cancers called vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN). Treatment for vaginal cancer may involve surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Some patients with pre-cancers (VAIN) may also be candidates for topical vaginal treatments or laser ablation.
Vaginal Cancer Education, Screenings & Treatment at BayCare
BayCare is proud to offer a variety of cancer services throughout Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg and all of Tampa Bay. Call (855) 314-8346 for a physician referral or find a doctor near you.