Basic Information About 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 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 about 7% of all gynecologic cancers diagnosed in the U.S.
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.