Vaginal cancer is typically more common in women over the age of 60, the National Library of Medicine reports, and a person is more likely to get this rare form of cancer if they had a human papillomavirus infection.
Physicians conduct a pelvic exam and biopsy (collect and examine cells) suspicious tissue to diagnose vaginal cancer. Other tests may include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scan and ultrasound.
Most vaginal cancer cases are treated with radiation therapy, but depending upon the stage and location of the cancer, surgery may be used instead. Occasionally, surgery and radiation are recommended. Surgical reconstruction of the vagina may be appropriate after some forms of treatment. In addition, chemotherapy is used to treat advanced vaginal cancer cases — often in conjunction with radiation. Read more about vaginal cancer treatment options.
The vagina, or birth canal, is a 3- to 4-inch long tube that begins at the lowest part of the uterus (cervix) and opens to the vulva (external genitalia). The vast majority of vaginal cancers develop in the epithelial lining of the vagina near the cervix and develop into squamous cell carcinomas. Vaginal cancer is rare and is responsible for only 3 percent of gynecologic cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. Most cases are diagnosed in women between the ages of 50 and 70.