Cancer of the vagina

Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2018 Oct:143 Suppl 2:14-21. doi: 10.1002/ijgo.12610.


Diagnosis of a primary vaginal cancer is rare because most of these lesions will be metastatic from another primary site. Although cancer of the vagina is more common in postmenopausal women, an increase in young women being diagnosed with primary vaginal cancer has been reported, especially in countries with a high HIV prevalence. This will be associated with persistence of high-risk HPV infection. The emphasis should be on primary prevention with prophylactic HPV vaccination. Once there is a suspicion of a primary vaginal cancer, this should be confirmed histologically with biopsy. Staging has been done clinically, similar to cervical cancer; however, there is a role for imaging in assisting with staging as this is often a difficult assessment. Treatment should be individualized and depends on stage as well as histologic subtype. It is prudent to refer cases to centers of excellence with experience in dealing with this rare gynecological cancer.

Keywords: FIGO Cancer Report; HPV; Adenocarcinoma; Imaging techniques; Individualized treatment; Sarcoma; Staging; Vaginal cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biopsy
  • Female
  • HIV
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Papillomaviridae
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology
  • Postmenopause
  • Prevalence
  • Vaginal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Vaginal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Vaginal Neoplasms / virology