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Vaginal cancer is a rare type of cancer that begins in the vagina. Around 260 new cases are diagnosed in the UK each year.
Cancer that begins in the vagina is called primary vaginal cancer. Cancer that begins in another part of the body – such as the cervix, womb or ovaries – and spreads to the vagina is known as secondary vaginal cancer.
The most common symptom of vaginal cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding. This includes:
Other symptoms can include:
While it's highly unlikely that these symptoms are caused by vaginal cancer, they should still be investigated by your GP. Read more about diagnosing vaginal cancer.
The exact causes of vaginal cancer are unknown, but things that may increase your risk of developing it include:
As there is a possible link with HPV, it may be possible to reduce your risk of vaginal cancer by practising safe sex. Read more advice on preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The HPV vaccination, which is now routinely offered to girls who are 12 to 13 years old, provides protection against two strains of HPV thought to be responsible for most cases of vaginal and cervical cancer.
Read more about the causes of vaginal cancer.
Treatment for vaginal cancer depends on which part of your vagina is affected and how far the cancer has spread (known as the "stage").
The main treatments for vaginal cancer are:
These treatments can cause both short- and long-term side effects that should be discussed with your care team before treatment begins.
Read more about treating vaginal cancer.
The chances of vaginal cancer being cured depend on things such as the stage at which it was diagnosed, your age and your general health.
Overall, around six in every 10 women with vaginal cancer will live for at least five years after diagnosis.
Around 110 women die from vaginal cancer every year in the UK.