What is vaginal cancer?
Vaginal cancer, sometimes referred to as primary vaginal cancer, is cancer that starts in the vagina, the muscular passage that leads from the cervix to the vulva.
Cancers that begin elsewhere (such as the cervix, womb or bowels) can spread to the vagina, but these cases are different; they are sometimes referred to as secondary vaginal cancer.
According to the Canadian Cancer Encyclopedia, primary vaginal cancer accounts 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.
The different types of vaginal cancer?
There are two main kinds of vaginal cancer, as mentioned above: primary vaginal cancer (where the cancer originates in the vagina) and secondary vaginal cancer (when cancer spreads to the vagina from another organ).
Then under the umbrella of primary vaginal cancer, there are three types:
- Squamous cell carcinoma, which accounts for 85 percent of cases. It is most common in women 50 and up.
- Clear cell adenocarcinoma, which accounts for about 9 percent of cases. This kind of vaginal cancer primarily affects teenagers and young women, most often those between 14 and 20.
- Melanoma, which only accounts for about 2 percent of cases. Like squamous cell carcinoma, vaginal melanoma is generally diagnosed in women over 50.