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Patient with vaginal cancer symptoms talking to nurse

Vaginal cancer is an uncommon malignancy that develops in the vagina, a muscular tube that connects a woman’s uterus to her outer genitals. Oftentimes, early-stage vaginal cancer does not produce noticeable symptoms. In many cases, the abnormality is detected by a physician during a routine pelvic examination or Pap test.

Therefore, in addition to receiving periodic gynecologic cancer screenings, it is vital for every woman to become familiar with her body and what is normal for her, and to promptly discuss any unusual changes with a physician. Although vaginal cancer is rare, new symptoms could indicate another health issue that should be addressed by a physician.

Early warning signs and symptoms of vaginal cancer

A hallmark sign of vaginal cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding, which is usually painless. Any bleeding that occurs between menstrual periods, after sexual intercourse or after menopause should be discussed with a physician right away.

Common signs and symptoms of vaginal cancer

In addition to abnormal vaginal bleeding, some common signs and symptoms of vaginal cancer include:

  • Watery vaginal discharge
  • A mass or lump in the vagina that can be felt 
  • Urinary frequency

It is important to note that these symptoms are more likely to be caused by something other than vaginal cancer, such as an infection. But the only way to know for sure is to consult with a physician. An accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment (when necessary) can lead to the best possible outcome and quality of life.

What does vaginal cancer feel like?

Although the abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge caused by vaginal cancer is usually painless, some of the other symptoms can be felt. For instance, a woman may experience burning sensations during urination or vague pain in her pelvic area, especially during sexual intercourse.

What does vaginal cancer look like?

The most common type of vaginal cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which forms in the flat, skin-like cells that line the vaginal walls. The cancer may look like small lumps (nodules) or sores (ulcers). 

Advanced signs and symptoms of vaginal cancer

As vaginal cancer progresses, it may grow deeper into the vaginal walls and invade nearby lymph nodes and other tissues. The symptoms of advanced vaginal cancer can include:

  • Back pain
  • Leg swelling
  • Constipation
  • Blackened stools
  • Fecal urgency, even when the bowel is empty

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about vaginal cancer signs and symptoms

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we believe well-informed patients make the best healthcare decisions. For this reason, we prioritize patient education. Because vaginal cancer usually does not produce noticeable symptoms, many people understandably have questions about this uncommon malignancy. We have included the following articles as reliable sources of information relating to FAQs about vaginal cancer symptoms:

Benefit from world-class care at Moffitt Cancer Center

Studies confirm that gynecologic cancer outcomes are best when patient care is managed by a multispecialty team in a high-volume cancer center. The physicians in Moffitt’s gynecological clinic are highly specialized and experienced in treating vaginal cancer, and our patients can benefit from personalized tumor analyses as well as the latest diagnostic techniques and treatment options, including a robust portfolio of clinical trials. Additionally, Moffitt’s research team is actively investigating the role of HPV in vaginal cancer with the goal of improving current prevention and early detection strategies.

If you would like to discuss your vaginal cancer symptoms with a specialist, you can confidently turn to Moffitt’s gynecological clinic for individualized and comprehensive care. Request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or submitting a new patient registration form online. No referral is necessary. For added convenience, all our specialists, tests and treatments are available in a single location.