Vaginal Cancer starts in the vagina. There are many different types of vaginal cancer, but the most common is called squamous cell carcinoma. It starts in the lining of the vagina.
The vagina starts at the cervix (the lower part of the uterus) and opens at the vulva (the external female genitals). The vagina is usually collapsed with its walls touching each other. The vaginal walls have many folds that help the vagina open and expand during sex or the birth of a baby.
A pre-cancer is a condition where some cells look abnormal. These cell changes are not cancer, but could become cancer over time. Vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia or VAIN means that the changed cells are only found in the innermost surface layer of the vagina.
VAIN is more common in women who have had their uterus removed (hysterectomy) and in those who were treated for cervical cancer or pre-cancer in the past.
There are 3 types of VAIN: VAIN1, VAIN2, and VAIN3. VAIN3 is the closest to a true cancer. In the past, the term dysplasia
was used instead of VAIN. The types of dysplasia were referred to as mild, moderate, and severe, based on how close it was to a true cancer. This term is used much less now.
Low-grade VAIN (VAIN1) will sometimes go away on its own, but VAIN can sometimes lead to cancer if not treated. Higher-grade VAIN (VAIN2 orVAIN3) is usually treated right away. Here are four signs to look out for:
1. Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding
Abnormal vaginal bleeding, also referred to as abnormal uterine bleeding, is an extremely common symptom and one that is experienced by most women at some point in their lives.
However, abnormal vaginal bleeding is also one of the most frequent symptoms experienced by women when they have gynecologic cancer, such as cervical cancer, endometrial cancer, uterine cancer, or ovarian cancer. Heavy periods, bleeding between periods, bleeding during or after sex, bleeding after menopause are all abnormal bleeding.
Therefore, it is important to understand when abnormal vaginal bleeding can signal a serious problem and, of course, you should always consult your doctor if you have any vaginal bleeding that is not normal for you.
2. Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
Most causes of abnormal vaginal discharge — such as yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis or menopause symptoms — are relatively harmless, but they can be uncomfortable.
Abnormal vaginal discharge can also be a symptom of certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Since these can spread to involve the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, and can be passed on to sexual partners, detection and treatment of STIs is important.
Rarely, a brownish or blood-tinged vaginal discharge could be a sign of cervical cancer. Only rarely is vaginal discharge a sign of cancer.
3. Painful Urination
Symptoms of painful urination can vary you'll usually experience it as a burning, stinging, or itching feeling. The pain can be at the start of urination or after urination. Pain at the start of urination is often the symptom of a urinary tract infection.
Pain after urination can indicate a problem with the bladder. Symptoms for female patients can be internal or external. Pain on the outside of the vaginal area may be caused by inflammation or irritation of this sensitive skin.
An internal pain can be a symptom of a urinary tract infection, or other serious problem.
4. Pelvic Pain
Pelvic pain can happen in both men and women and might stem from infections, abnormalities in internal organs, or pain from the pelvic bones. In women, pelvic pain might be related to the reproductive system. Treatment depends upon the cause.
Constipation occurs when bowel movements become less frequent and stools become difficult to pass. It happens most often due to changes in diet or routine, or due to inadequate intake of fiber.
You should call your doctor if you have severe pain, blood in your stools, or constipation that lasts longer than three weeks.