What Are the Symptoms of Vaginal Cancer?

Alicia Sparks
Alicia Sparks
Routine Pap smears can detect vaginal cancer.
Routine Pap smears can detect vaginal cancer.

Often, the symptoms of vaginal cancer go undiagnosed because most of them are similar to symptoms of less severe conditions. Irregular vaginal bleeding, for example, could be confused with pregnancy or the use of certain birth control methods. Likewise, painful urination could be confused with a urinary tract infection. On the other hand, many women do not experience vaginal cancer symptoms until the disease begins to progress. Couple the ambiguity or complete lack of symptoms with the rare nature of vaginal cancer and it is easy to understand why regular doctor appointments and exams are essential for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Women who experience unusual vaginal symptoms should speak with their doctor immediately.
Women who experience unusual vaginal symptoms should speak with their doctor immediately.

Some examples of symptoms of vaginal cancer that could be confused with other kinds of symptoms include an unusual discharge, irregular vaginal bleeding, and changes in urination. Generally, these symptoms are abnormal enough to avoid going unnoticed. For example, the discharge usually is watery and may smell like blood, and the irregular vaginal bleeding typically happens after intercourse or when a woman has already gone through menopause. Changes in urination might include painful urination. Some women might experience constipation and pain during intercourse, as well as pelvic pain, which can signal the cancer has started to spread.

Irregular vaginal bleeding that requires the use of maxi pads or tampons between periods may be a sign of cancer.
Irregular vaginal bleeding that requires the use of maxi pads or tampons between periods may be a sign of cancer.

Perhaps the least confusing of the symptoms of vaginal cancer is that of a vaginal mass. Vaginal cancer is a cancer of the vaginal tissue, and not of the more internal female reproductive organs such as the cervix and uterus. Therefore, a woman might discover the mass before her physician does. Sometimes, a vaginal mass is not anything more than a cyst, which can be monitored or removed if it causes adverse symptoms. To determine whether the mass is a cyst or a cancerous malignancy, the physician most likely will order a biopsy.

Vaginal cancer is considered a rare cancer in the U.S.
Vaginal cancer is considered a rare cancer in the U.S.

Vaginal cancer is one of the rare cancers, estimated to affect only 2,000 women a year in the United States. Given that rarity, and that many symptoms of vaginal cancer are similar to symptoms of other less serious conditions, a proper diagnosis sometimes is delayed. Routine Pap smears can detect vaginal cancer, and women who experience any unusual symptoms should make appointments with their physicians. Even if the symptoms are not indicative of vaginal cancer, they are still abnormal and require an accurate diagnosis and treatment. If a woman receives a vaginal cancer diagnosis, her physician might also check for other types of reproductive cancers, as they often occur simultaneously.

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    • Routine Pap smears can detect vaginal cancer.
      By: Zsolnai Gergely
      Routine Pap smears can detect vaginal cancer.
    • Women who experience unusual vaginal symptoms should speak with their doctor immediately.
      By: Monkey Business
      Women who experience unusual vaginal symptoms should speak with their doctor immediately.
    • Irregular vaginal bleeding that requires the use of maxi pads or tampons between periods may be a sign of cancer.
      By: kellyreekolibry
      Irregular vaginal bleeding that requires the use of maxi pads or tampons between periods may be a sign of cancer.
    • Vaginal cancer is considered a rare cancer in the U.S.
      By: Photographee.eu
      Vaginal cancer is considered a rare cancer in the U.S.
    • Unusual vaginal discharge may be a sign of vaginal cancer.
      By: Dragos Iliescu
      Unusual vaginal discharge may be a sign of vaginal cancer.
    • Some women with vaginal cancer may experience pain during intercourse.
      By: Artem Furman
      Some women with vaginal cancer may experience pain during intercourse.
    • The painful urination associated with vaginal cancer may be confused with a urinary tract infection.
      By: 7activestudio
      The painful urination associated with vaginal cancer may be confused with a urinary tract infection.
    • Symptoms of vaginal cancer may include painful urination.
      By: arturas kerdokas
      Symptoms of vaginal cancer may include painful urination.