Vaginal cancer is a rare disease involving the development of abnormal cells in the vagina, normally seen in women aged 60 and older. Both vaginal and vulvar cancers are very uncommon, and constitute 6%–7% of all new cases of gynecologic cancer reported in the U.S. each year. While there is no specific screening test, the disease may be detected through a pelvic exam, Pap test, biopsy, or colposcopy, and is highly curable if detected early. Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
If there are vaginal cancer symptoms, they might be:
- Vaginal discharge or bleeding that is not normal for you
- Pain in your pelvis, especially when you go to the bathroom or have sex
- A change in your regular bathroom habits, like blood in your urine or stools.
Vulvar cancer occurs when abnormal cells develop in the tissues of the vulva, or external female genitalia, and usually affects the outer vaginal lips. Vulvar cancer typically forms gradually over several years, but may not have early signs or symptoms. Surgery is the most common form of treatment, including laser surgery, wide local excision, radical local excision, ultrasound surgical aspiration, vulvectomy, or pelvic exenteration. The majority of cases occur in women over age 50, and more than 50% occur in women over age 70.
Vulvar cancer symptoms may include:
- Persistent itching, burning or bleeding on the vulva
- Changes in the color of the skin on the vulva, whereby it’s redder or whiter than usual
- Skin texture changes on the vulva, appearing like a rash or warts
- Sores or lumps on the vulva
- Pain in your pelvis, especially when you go to the bathroom or have sex.
It is important to know your body and know what is normal for you. Always see a doctor if you believe you have symptoms and those symptoms last longer than two weeks.