Vaginal and Vulvar Cancers
Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. Cancer is always named for the part of the body where it starts, even if it spreads to other body parts later. When cancer starts in the vagina, it is called vaginal cancer. The vagina, also called the birth canal, is the hollow, tube-like channel between the bottom of the uterus and the outside of the body.
When cancer starts in the vulva, it is called vulvar cancer. The vulva is the outer part of the female genital organs. It has two folds of skin, called the labia. Vulvar cancer most often occurs on the inner edges of the labia.
When vaginal and vulvar cancers are found early, treatment is most effective.
Learn more by downloading the Inside Knowledge campaign's vaginal and vulvar cancer fact sheet. [PDF-980KB]
Who Gets Vaginal and Vulvar Cancers?
Vaginal and vulvar cancers are very rare. While all women are at risk for these cancers, very few will get them. Together, they account for 6%–7% of all gynecologic cancers diagnosed in the U.S.†
In 2009 (the most recent year numbers are available)—
- 1,209 women in the United States were diagnosed with vaginal cancer.*†
- 398 women in the United States died from vaginal cancer.*†
- 4,386 women in the United States were diagnosed with vulvar cancer.*†
- 946 women in the United States died from vulvar cancer.*†
*Incidence counts cover approximately 90% of the U.S. population; death counts cover approximately 100% of the U.S. population. Use caution when comparing incidence and death counts.
†Source: U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. United States Cancer Statistics: 1999–2009 Incidence and Mortality Web-based Report. Atlanta (GA): Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Cancer Institute; 2013. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/uscs. (full site)
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