Depending on the group of cells affected, a vaginal cancer can be:
Squamous cell vaginal cancer (or Vaginal squamous cell carcinoma)– this type of vaginal cancer is the most common; it arises from the thin, flat squamous cells that line the vagina. Squamous cell vaginal cancer represents 75 to 90% of malignant tumors of the vagina. Vaginal squamous cell carcinoma spreads slowly and usually develops in women aged 60 or older.
Adenocarcinoma vaginal cancer (or vaginaladenocarcinoma) –this type of vaginal cancer is rare, representing 5 to 10% of malignant tumors of the vagina. Usually, the cancer arises from the cells in the lining of the vagina that produce vaginal mucus. Unlike squamous cell vaginal cancer, vaginal adenocarcinoma is more common in young women.
Vaginal melanoma – this is a very rare form of vaginal cancer. Usually, vaginal melanoma arises from “the pigment-producing cells in the vagina. It is responsible for 1 to 3% of cancers of the vagina. Vaginal melanoma tends to occur among older women, mostly women aged 60 or older.
Vaginal Sarcoma – Sarcomas are very rare. They usually begin in the connective tissue cells or smooth muscle cells in the walls of the vagina. Unlike vaginal squamous cell carcinoma, vaginal sarcomas tend togrow fast, and lead to complications. There are at least three types of vaginal sarcomas:
- Leiomyosarcoma – this malignant tumor develops in the involuntary muscle cells of the vaginal walls; it is the most common type of vaginal sarcomas. Usually, leiomyosarcoma is found in women aged 50 or older.
- Rhabdomyosarcoma – this subtype of vaginal cancer arises from the voluntary muscle cells of the vaginal walls. Unlike leiomyosarcoma, habdomyosarcoma occurs mostly in girls aged 3 or younger.
- Embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma – also called sarcoma botryoides, embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma is a rare but aggressive form of vaginal sarcoma. It is often found in children less than 8 years of age. Although the tumor arises from cells of the vaginal walls, with times, it can show outside the vagina, and cause severe pain.