Open Site Navigation

Vaginal Cancer

Vaginal cancer is rare and early-stage diagnosis gives the best chance for survival.

Many women with a very early stage of Vaginal Cancer don't experience any symptoms at all but awareness and early detection can save lives.

Early diagnosis is critical. Vaginal cancer that spreads beyond the vagina is much more difficult to treat.

What is vaginal cancer?

What are the symptoms of vaginal cancer?

Know the signs.

It is rare to have symptoms if you have very early stage vaginal cancer or changes in the lining of the vagina called HSIL vagina ( high grade intraepithelial neoplasia)

The most common symptoms of vaginal cancer are:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse

  • Blood-stained, watery vaginal discharge

  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse and pain

Other symptoms include:​

  • A lump or mass in your vagina that you or your doctor can feel

  • Problems with passing urine (such as blood in the urine, the need to pass urine frequently and the need to pass urine at night)

  • Pain during sexual intercourse

  • Pain in the pelvic area (the lower part of the abdomen between the hip bones)

  • Pain in the back or legs

  • Constipation or abnormal bowel function

If you have any of these symptoms listed above, particularly if:

  • They are not normal for you

  • They are persistent

  • There are repeated episodes

  • They do not go away


... be sure to visit your doctor for a check up.


Remember, early detection can save lives. Most women with symptoms like these do not have cancer. Your awareness of your symptoms is the most important step.

Risk factors


Factors that may increase your risk of vaginal cancer include:

  • Increasing age - your risk of vaginal cancer increases as you age.  Most women who are diagnosed with vaginal cancer are older than 60.

  • Atypical cells in the vagina called HSIL vagina - increases your risk of vaginal cancer.

  • Exposure to miscarriage prevention drug - if your mother took a drug called diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant in the 1950's you may have an increased risk of a certain type of vaginal cancer called clear cell adenocarcinoma.


Other risk factors that have been linked to an increased risk of vaginal cancer include:

  • Multiple sexual partners

  • Early age at first intercourse

  • Smoking

  • HPV infection

Donate today

Awareness saves lives. Help us to educate and inform women across Aotearoa about the signs of gynae cancer.

Vaginal cancer is a rare disease in which malignant cancer cells form in the vagina. 

Vaginal cancer most commonly occurs in the cells that line the surface of your vagina, which is sometimes called the birth canal.

A diagnosis of early-stage vaginal cancer has the best chance for a cure.  Vaginal cancer that spreads beyond the vagina is much more difficult to treat.

What is the treatment?

There is no screening programme for vaginal cancer because it is a very rare condition.

When you have a cervical screening test, the doctor or nurse does a routine examination of your vagina at the same time.  If you have an abnormal cervical smear and are examined at colposcopy the specialist will examine both your cervix and vagina as well as sometimes the abnormal cells come from the vagina ( HSIL vagina).

The treatment for vaginal cancer depends on a number of factors, including your general health and the stage, grade and type of cancer.  Radiotherapy, surgery and chemotherapy may be used to treat vaginal cancer.  You may have one, or a combination of these treatments.