Vaginal cancer is
a form of malignant female genital disease. It is not very common and usually associated with other cancers of
the abdomen. There are two forms of occurrence: primitive and secondary. The cancer is considered primitive when
the tumor occurs in isolation in the vagina tissue, and secondary when it results from a localized cancer in
another organ. Regardless of the form, vaginal cancer tends to be asymptomatic in the early stages. With the
progression of the disease, however, painful urination and other disorders can occur. Please see vaginal cancer
Anatomy and Role of the Vagina
vagina allows sexual intercourse, procreation, and giving birth. This is an important organ located inside the
body, in front of the rectum and behind the bladder. Its entrance is at the vulva and labia minora, and stops at
the cervix uteri (neck of the uterus), the lower part of the uterus. The vagina is separated from the vulva by
the hymen, a small fold of mucosa which is a symbol of virginity. It measures an average of between 8 and 12
The interior of
the vagina is lined with a mucous membrane comprising of many folds. Although rich in blood vessels, arteries
and veins, the vagina has few nerve endings and is therefore little sensitive, except near the vulva.
Menstruation blood flows through the vaginal wall through a very narrow orifice which also allows the passage of
sperm. The walls are elastic to fit a penis and especially childbirth.
Epidemiology of Vaginal Cancer
Vaginal cancer is
responsible for approximately 1% of gynecological cancers in the Western world. Average age of diagnosis is
around 60-65 years. The treatment can be successful but it important to start at early stage. Please see vaginal
The disease is a
rare medical condition that mainly concerns older women, although there are cases among very young girls and
even very young children (3 years). This is especially of children whose mother received, during the pregnancy,
hormone therapy, more specifically estrogen therapy resulting in the occurrence of adenosis (abnormal formation
or enlargement of glandular tissue) or adenocarcinoma (a form of malignant tumor which usually forms in
mucus-secreting glands throughout the body).
The majority of
vaginal cancers are carcinomas, which medical experts call squamous cell cancer of the vagina. Microscopic
examination of samples taken at the cancerous lesions reveals a variety of squamous cells, thin and flat cells
that look like fish scales.
Primary and secondary
Secondary epithelial squamous cell
carcinoma, mostly in older women
Clear-cell adenocarcinoma (CCA),
affecting mainly young women
Embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (ERMS),
diagnosed mostly at the age of three years.
Types of Vaginal cancer