Signs and Symptoms of Vaginal Cancer

When vaginal cancer is small and only in the cells lining the vagina, it may not cause symptoms. Invasive vaginal cancer tends to be bigger and has spread into nearby tissues, like deeper into the wall of the vagina. Most women with invasive vaginal cancer have one or more symptoms, such as:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding (often after sex)
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • A mass or lump in the vagina that can be felt
  • Pain during sex

Advanced vaginal cancer has spread beyond the vagina to nearby structures and lymph nodes. Symptoms of advanced vaginal cancer may be:

  • Painful urination
  • Constipation
  • Pain in the pelvis or low in the belly
  • Back pain
  • Swelling in the legs

Having these symptoms does not always mean that you have cancer. In fact, these symptoms are more likely to be caused by something besides cancer, like an infection. The only way to know what’s causing these problems is to see a health care professional.

If you have any of these symptoms, discuss them with a doctor right away. Remember, the sooner the problem is correctly diagnosed, the sooner you can start treatment, and the better the treatment will work.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

American Society of Clinical Oncology. Vaginal Cancer: Symptoms and Signs. 08/2017. Accessed at www.cancer.net/cancer-types/vaginal-cancer/symptoms-and-signs on March 7, 2018.

National Cancer Institute. Vaginal Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version. October 13, 2017. Accessed at www.cancer.gov/types/vaginal/patient/vaginal-treatment-pdq on March 7, 2018.

Society of Gynecologic Oncology. Vaginal Cancer Symptoms. Accessed at www.sgo.org/patients-caregivers-survivors/caregivers/vaginal-cancer-symptoms/ on March 7, 2018.

Last Medical Review: March 19, 2018 Last Revised: March 19, 2018

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