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Vaginal Cancer Symptoms, Signs and Types

Vaginal cancer often can be found early, and even prevented, by having regular pelvic exams and Pap tests. Detecting vaginal cancer early often means it’s easier to treat.

What are common signs of vaginal cancer?

You might not notice any signs or symptoms of vaginal cancer in the earliest stages. That’s why regular pelvic exams and Pap tests are crucial—they can spot warning signs of cancer before you see or feel anything.

Some of these signs and symptoms may be caused by vaginal cancer. They may also be caused by other conditions, so talk to your doctor if you notice:

  • Bleeding or vaginal discharge that’s unrelated to your menstrual periods or bleeding after menopause
  • Pain in the pelvic area when urinating or during sexual intercourse
  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse
  • A frequent need to pee or feeling like you need to pass stool when your bowels are empty
  • Constipation
  • A lump in the vagina

What are the different types of vaginal cancer?

There are several different types of vaginal cancer that start in various types of cells:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type—it makes up about 90% of vaginal cancers. It starts in the flat squamous cells that line the surface of the vagina and spreads slowly. 
  • Adenocarcinoma is cancer that begins in gland cells in the vaginal wall. These cancers are mostly found in people over age 50 and are more likely to spread to the lungs and lymph nodes. 
  • Melanoma is rare but can develop in the melanocytes (the pigmented cells in the vagina that give it its color).
  • Sarcoma begins in the tissue cells or muscle cells in the walls of the vagina.

At Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, we’re here to support you at any stage of your health care journey. If you have questions about gynecological symptoms you’re experiencing, a Banner MD Anderson specialist can help.

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