Vaginal cancer

Cancers that start in the vagina (primary vaginal cancer) are rare, especially in women under 40. Fewer than 300 women are diagnosed with this type of cancer in the UK each year.

It is more common for cancer to start in an area close by, such as the cervix or womb, and grow into the vagina. This information is only about cancers that start in the vagina.

Meet the Gynaecology team.

diagram labeling key parts of female internal anatomy

Am I at risk?

Like cervical cancer, vaginal cancer is usually caused by infection with some types of the human papilloma virus (HPV). The following can be risk factors for vaginal cancer:

  • Age– vaginal cancer is more common in women over the age of 60
  • HPV (human papilloma virus)– some HPV infections increase the risk of some cancers
  • A weakened immune system– if weak, the immune system is less likely to get rid of infections such as HPV
  • Vaginal intra-epithelial neoplasia (VAIN)– pre-cancerous changes in the cells lining the vagina
  • Cancer or pre-cancerous changes in the cervix
  • Radiotherapy to the pelvis– previous radiotherapy in this area may result in a very slightly increased risk of vaginal cancer

For more information on vaginal cancer, please follow this link.

Symptoms of vaginal cancer

The most common symptoms of vaginal cancer are:

  • bleeding after the menopause, between periods or after sex
  • blood-stained vaginal discharge
  • pain when peeing (passing urine), needing to pee often, or blood in your pee
  • pain in the pelvic area
  • constipation
  • feeling you need to poo, even though you have just been (tenesmus)
  • a lump or itch in your vagina that won’t go away
  • swelling in your legs

These symptoms can be caused by many other conditions. But if you notice any of them, it is important to see your GP.

Patient information

For more information from Macmillan regarding vaginal cancer, please follow this link.

For more information from Cancer Research UK regarding vaginal cancer, please follow this link.