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Vaginal cancer occurs when cancerous cells grow in the vagina. The vagina is a muscular tube that starts at the cervix (lower part of the uterus), and opens at the vulva (outer part of the female genitals).
Though it is possible for different types of cancers to spread to the vagina, vaginal cancer (that begins in the vagina) is rare.
There are different types of vaginal cancer depending on the type of cells where the cancer began:
This is the most common type of vaginal cancer. It develops in the squamous cells that line the vaginal surface. Squamous cell carcinoma develops very slowly and is usually seen in women above 6o years of age.
It starts in the glandular cells in the lining of vagina and tends to spread to nearby tissues and organs.
It is a very rare form of adenocarcinoma that affects women whose mothers used a synthetic estrogen, diethylstilbestrol, in early pregnancy to prevent miscarriage and other complications.
It is a very rare type of cancer that develops in the melanocytes or pigment-producing cells of the vagina.
It develops in the bone and muscle cells of the vagina, and is very rare.
Initially, vaginal cancer may not present any symptoms. However, as it progresses, you may experience the following symptoms:
Some cases of vaginal cancer do not have a clear cause. Others may be due to:
People who have had cervical pre-cancer and cervical cancer are at high risk of having vaginal cancer.
Other risk factors include:
Other risk factors associated with a risk of vaginal cancer include:
There is no proven way to prevent vaginal cancer. However, there are certain steps you can take to reduce your risk:
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