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Basic Information About Vaginal and Vulvar Cancers

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 forms in the vulva, it is 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.

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% to 7% of all gynecologic cancers diagnosed in the U.S.

Photo of four women

What Are the Risk Factors for Vaginal and Vulvar Cancer?

Several factors may increase the chance that you will get vaginal or vulvar cancer.

Photo of a doctor giving an HPV vaccine to a girl, while her mother looks on

What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk?

The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause vaginal and vulvar cancers. It is recommended for preteens who are 11 to 12 years old.

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What Are the Symptoms of Vaginal and Vulvar Cancer?

Symptoms of vaginal cancer may include vaginal discharge or bleeding, a change in bathroom habits, or pelvic pain. Vulvar cancer symptoms may include skin changes in the vulva or sores, lumps, or ulcers on the vulva.

Photo of a woman talking to her doctor

What Should I Know About Screening?

Since there is no simple and reliable way to screen for vaginal or vulvar cancers, it is especially important to recognize warning signs and learn what you can do to lower your risk.

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