Malignant tumours of the vagina are cancerous growths that have the potential to spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Primary vaginal cancer is not common, accounting for only 1–2% of all female genital cancers. Most cancers of the vagina (80–90%) start in other organs (most often the cervix or vulva) and spread to the vagina.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of vaginal cancer. It begins in the squamous cells that make up the epithelial lining of the vagina.
Verrucous carcinoma is a rare distinct type of squamous cell carcinoma. It may recur locally after surgery but rarely metastasizes.
Adenocarcinoma begins in the glandular cells of the vagina.
Clear cell adenocarcinoma is a type of adenocarcinoma that occurs most often in women 15 to 22 years of age whose mothers took diethylstilbestrol (DES) before they were born. The risk appears to be greatest in women whose mothers took DES during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.
Vaginal adenosis is a condition in which areas of glandular cells have replaced the squamous cells that normally line the vagina. It is found in nearly all women who were exposed to DES before birth and in approximately 40% of women not exposed to DES. It may occur at the same time as clear cell carcinoma, but it rarely progresses to adenocarcinoma.
Melanoma begins in the pigment-producing cells of the vagina called melanocytes.
Sarcoma begins in the muscle or connective tissue cells of the vagina.
Leiomyosarcoma accounts for two-thirds of vaginal sarcomas. Other types include endometrial stromal sarcoma and malignant mixed Müllerian tumours.
Embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (sarcoma botryoides) is a vaginal sarcoma most often found in children up to 6 years of age. It is rarely found in adults.
For more than 50 years, the Canadian Cancer Society’s transportation program has enabled patients to focus their energy on fighting cancer and not on worrying about how they will get to treatment.