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Vaginal Cancer

Vaginal cancer is a very rare disease with just over 250 cases diagnosed in the UK each year. It is most commonly diagnosed in women over 60 years of age and is extremely rare in women under 40.

Changes to the cells in the lining of the vagina called Vaginal Intraepithelial Neoplasia (VAIN) can mean you are more at risk of getting vaginal cancer. These changes are not enough to make the cells cancerous, but they could become cancerous if not treated.

Although not designed to do so, having regular cervical screening tests (smears) can help pick up cell changes involved in vaginal cancer in its very early stages, but cervical screening is not guaranteed to pick up these conditions, because they mainly take cells from the cervix, rather than the vagina.

The HPV vaccine is arguably the greatest protection now available. It is routinely offered to girls aged between 12 and 13, and it also protects against cervical cancer.

The early signs and symptoms of vaginal cancer or the pre-cancerous changes called Vaginal Intraepithelial Neoplasia (VAIN) are rare. They include:

  • Bleeding when you are not having a period or bleeding after the menopause- this is the
    most common symptom. You may have bleeding after sex.
  • Vaginal discharge that smells or is blood stained - about 3 out of 10 women (30%) have this symptom
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • A lump or growth in the vagina that you or your doctor can feel - up to 1 in 10 women (10%) have this
  • A vaginal itch that won't go away

However, as many as 20 per cent of women diagnosed with vaginal cancer have no symptoms at all and many of the above symptoms are far more likely to be due to other conditions, such as infections.

Download our information leaflet here


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