The vagina is the canal that starts at the cervix (the lower part of the uterus) to open at the vulva (external genitals).
Signs & Symptoms
Vaginal cancer may or may not have symptoms, depending on its location within the vagina and the size of the cancerous lesion. When present, symptoms of vaginal cancer can include one or more of the following:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding (often occurring after sex)
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- A lump or mass in the vagina
- Pain during sex
Advanced vaginal cancer means the cancer has spread beyond the vagina to nearby parts of the body or lymph nodes. Symptoms of advanced vaginal cancer can also include painful urination, constipation, pain in the pelvis region, back pain, or swelling in the legs.
How Can I Prevent Vaginal Cancer:
Presently, there is no dedicated screening tool for vaginal cancer. In some cases, pre-cancerous changes in the vagina can be found with a Pap Smear — however, these tests are not validated screening tools for vaginal cancer. Vaginal cancers may also be identified during pelvic exams.
Although there are no clear risk factors for vaginal cancer, there are factors that may increase the chances of developing vaginal cancer. If you have risk factors such as HIV/immunodeficiency disease or DES (Diethylstilbestrol) exposure, make sure your provider is aware of this.
DES is a drug that was prescribed to many women between 1931 and 1971 as a way to prevent miscarriages. Studies have shown that people whose mothers took this drug, mainly during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy, have a significantly increased rate of a rare type of vaginal and cervical cancer called clear-cell adenocarcinoma.