Vaginal cancer is very rare, and is nearly always caused by an infection from certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Can be detected through attending cervical screening appointments. 75% of cases of vaginal cancer are preventable.
There are approximately 250 new cases of vaginal cancer in the Uk every year. Incidence rates for vaginal cancer in the UK are highest in females aged 85 to 89.
- a lump in the vagina
- ulcers and other skin changes in or around the vagina
- bleeding from the vagina after the menopause
- bleeding after sex or pain during sex
- smelly or bloodstained vaginal discharge
- bleeding between periods
- an itch in your vagina that will not go away
- pain when you wee, or the need to wee a lot
It's important to get symptoms of vaginal cancer checked out as soon as possible. Finding cancer earlier makes it easier to treat.
More than half of all vaginal cancers are caused by an infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV).
You can get HPV from:
- any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area
- vaginal, anal or oral sex
- sharing sex toys
Anyone with a vagina can develop vaginal cancer, including trans and non-binary people with a vagina, or who have parts of their vagina left after surgery, or those who have had a hysterectomy.
You might also be more likely to get vaginal cancer if:
- you have had an HPV infection
- precancerous cells have been found in your cervix (CIN) or vagina (VAIN)
- you have had cervical cancer
- you are 75 and over – vaginal cancer is more common in older women
- you have lupus, a condition that affects your immune system
- you have HIV or AIDS
- your mother took the hormonal drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant with you – your GP can discuss these risks with you
- you have had womb cancer, especially if you had radiotherapy
You cannot always prevent vaginal cancer, but as there's a link between vaginal cancer and HPV, cervical screening and HPV vaccination are the best ways to protect yourself.
Vagincal cancer is often treatable.
The treatment you have will depend on:
- the size and type of vaginal cancer you have
- where it is in the vagina
- if it has spread
- your general health
The main treatment for vaginal cancer is radiotherapy. You may also have surgery and chemotherapy.
If you have any concerns about the signs and symptoms of vaginal cancer, please visit your GP.