Vaginal Cancer - Stages and Types of Vaginal Cancer

Vaginal cancer, or vaginal carcinoma, is one of the less common gynecological cancers. Secondary vaginal cancer (cancer that has spread from a different gynecological organ to the vagina) is more common than primary vaginal cancer (cancer that is first formed in the vagina). The symptoms of vaginal carcinoma often overlap with those of non-malignant gynecological conditions, and this makes early diagnosis challenging.

For early diagnosis, it is important for women to not ignore persistent gynecological symptoms and seek medical attention whenever necessary.

What is Vaginal Cancer?

The vagina is a part of the female reproductive system. It is a muscular canal that connects the cervix and uterus with the vulva. Several types of cells are present in the vagina. These include parabasal cells, basal cells, intermediate cells, glandular cells, and superficial squamous flat cells. When one or more types of vaginal cells divide uncontrollably and form a tumor, it is referred to as vaginal cancer. Generally, vaginal carcinoma develops on the superficial vaginal lining. Women over 60 years of age or who are suffering from a human papillomavirus infection have a higher risk of developing this cancer.

How Common is Vaginal Cancer?

Most cases of vaginal carcinoma are due to metastasis, i.e., cancer from another part of the body, especially from the reproductive organs, that spreads to the vagina. Primary vaginal cancer is rare. Vaginal carcinoma accounts for only 1% to 2% of all genital cancers found in women. The incidence rate of vaginal carcinoma in India is estimated to be 0.83/million population, while the mortality rate is estimated to be about 0.41/million population.

What are Different Types of Vaginal Cancer?

There are multiple vaginal cancer types depending on the type of cell and location from which they arise. The following are the different vaginal carcinoma types:

Main types of Vaginal Cancer

The following are more common vaginal cancer types are:

Rare Types of Vaginal Cancer

Some of the rare vaginal cancer types are:

What are the Vaginal Cancer Stages?

Vaginal cancer staging includes:


Vaginal carcinoma is a cancer that occurs in the vagina. Primary vaginal carcinoma is rare, and most vaginal carcinomas are due to metastasis (spread from other organs). Vaginal cancer types include squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, sarcoma, vaginal melanoma, vaginal small cell carcinoma, and undifferentiated carcinoma. Stages of vaginal cancer range from 0 to 4. Stage 0 is considered precancerous, while stage 4 is the most advanced stage of vaginal carcinoma.

Frequently Asked Questions

Vaginal cancer may develop at any age. However, its incidence is more prevalent in women aged 60 and above. Other risk factors include human papillomavirus infection and prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES daughters).

Stage 0 is the first stage of vaginal cancer. It is also known as vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia, carcinoma-in-situ, or pre-cancer stage.

Treatment of early-stage vaginal cancers may have little or no effect on the fertility of the patients. However, advanced cancer may spread to the fallopian tube, uterus, and ovaries and may result in the removal of one or more of these organs. In such cases, fertility may be affected.

The survival rate of patients with clear cell carcinoma of the vagina depends upon the stage of diagnosis, the overall health of patients, and the response to treatment.

Stage 1 vaginal carcinoma may have a local or distant recurrence. However, the risk of recurrence is relatively lower for stage 1 vaginal carcinomas as compared to advanced-stage vaginal carcinomas.