About Vaginal Cancer

Vaginal tumors are tissue growths that arise in the vagina. Vaginal cancer is extremely rare, with only 2,100 women in the United States expected to be diagnosed with the disease every year. The majority of vaginal cancer is the result of the spread of a different cancer, such as cervical or endometrial cancer, into the vagina. Primary vaginal cancer is very rare. Women whose mothers took diethylstilbestrol (DES) during the first trimester of pregnancy are at increased risk for developing vaginal cancer. However, DES has not been administered during pregnancy for several decades and thus the overall risk of DES-related cancer of the vagina is very low.

Most women with early stage vaginal cancer will not experience any symptoms. However, most women with advanced vaginal cancer can experience the following symptoms:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding and discharge
  • Bleeding during and/or after sexual intercourse
  • Pelvic or vaginal pain

Symptoms may not develop until the cancer has advanced, but routine examinations including pelvic exams and pap smears can help detect vaginal cancer in its early stages.

Vaginal Cancer Screening & Diagnosis

If suspicious lesions are found in the vaginal area, your doctor may recommend that a biopsy be performed to determine if cancer is present. If a Pap smear is abnormal and the vagina does not have any visible abnormalities, colposcopy (an examination of the vagina and cervix using a special microscope) may be performed to locate abnormal areas for biopsy. If more tests are necessary, a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis and a chest x-ray may be ordered.

If a diagnosis of vaginal cancer is made, your physician then determines the severity or stage of the cancer. Each cancer type has its own classification system.

Multispecialty Team

NorthShore University HealthSystem physicians and the team at the Kellogg Cancer Center work collaboratively and are dedicated to putting patients and families at the center of a healthcare experience that delivers compassionate, quality care.

Every week, our multidisciplinary team meets to discuss each patient’s case in detail and to design a personalized treatment plan. Your team may include your medical oncologist, surgeon, radiation oncologist, genetics counselor, pathologist, nutritionist, interventional radiologist, and researchers focused on you. This meeting of the minds provides each patient with an individualized care plant to create the path for the most optimal outcome. Our approach emphasizes open communication, collaborating with each other personally and through one of the most advanced electronic medical records systems in the country.

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