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What is vaginal cancer?

Vaginal cancer is a cancer that starts in the vagina.

Your vagina is the passage from the neck of the womb (cervix) to the vulva (the sex organs outside your body).

Almost 40% of new vaginal cancer cases are in women aged 75 years and over. It’s very rare in women under 40 years old.

What are the symptoms of vaginal cancer?

Signs of vaginal cancer include:

  • bleeding from your vagina after the menopause
  • bleeding after sex or pain during sex
  • bleeding between periods
  • smelly vaginal discharge, or discharge with blood.
  • a lump or itch in your vagina that doesn't go away
  • pain when weeing, or needing to wee a lot.

When should I speak to a GP?

As soon as you notice these symptoms you should talk to your doctor.

It’s unlikely you will have cancer but it’s good to be checked, especially as early diagnosis means you can get better treatment.

Your doctor may do an examination inside your vagina. You may be referred to have more tests.

What treatments are available?

Surgery can remove cancerous tissue from your vagina. Sometimes all of the vagina needs to be removed.

You could also have radiotherapy (using radiation to destroy cancer cells) or chemotherapy (using medicine to kill cancer cells) or both.

Laser treatment is also available for some types of vaginal cancer.

Can I die from vaginal cancer?

How vaginal cancer affects you depends on many things including:

  • how big the cancer was when it was diagnosed
  • the part of the vagina where the cancer is
  • the types of cells where the cancer starts
  • your age and general health and fitness.

Even after successful treatment the cancer can come back.


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More information

Watch our webinar with top experts answering common questions about the five gynaecological cancers, including vaginal cancer, below.