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Vaginal Cancer


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Vaginal cancer is the rarest gynecologic cancer in the U.S. The American Cancer Society estimates that 4,600 women are diagnosed with vaginal cancer yearly. Regardless of its rarity, if it happens to you, you’ve come to the right place.

There are two types of cancer that affect the vagina, or the birth canal, in women:

Squamous cell carcinoma:
This is the most common type of vaginal cancer and forms the thin, flat cells lining the vagina. It typically spreads slowly and stays near the vagina. In rare instances, it may spread to the lungs, liver, or bone.

This begins in glandular cells in the lining of the vagina that make and release fluids. Adenocarcinoma may spread to the lungs and lymph nodes. There is one rare type of adenocarcinoma that is linked to your mother having taken diethylstilbestrol (DES) while pregnant with you.

Why Choose Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center?

Sylvester is an NCI-designated cancer center. The National Cancer Institute has recognized Sylvester for its outstanding work conducting research in its laboratories, treating patients in its clinics and hospitals, and reaching out to medically underserved communities with innovative prevention strategies.

The only dysplasia clinic in South Florida. We offer diagnosis and treatment for pre-invasive diseases of the lower genital tract, as well as screening and treatment of anal dysplasia in men and women.

More experienced physicians to care for you. Sylvester treats more than 5,000 patients with cancer each year. Your dedicated team of physicians at Sylvester have a huge depth and breadth of experience treating your unique cancer.

Multidisciplinary care teams provide nationally recognized expertise. Your physician experts talk to each other, face-to-face, on a regular basis and plan the right care for you and your specific cancer. And you can expect that caliber of care in years to come. Sylvester also has the only gynecologic oncology fellowship in South Florida training the next generation of doctors.

Fertility preservation experts. You don’t have to choose between future fertility and cancer treatment. Specialists at the University of Miami Fertility Center in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology offer fertility counseling for male and female cancer patients to help you explore your options and make decisions regarding fertility preservation before you undergo treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Questions? We're here to help.

Our appointment specialists are ready to help you find what you need. Contact us today.


  • Pre-Cancerous Genital Disease

    Dysplasia, a pre-invasive genital disease, is common and can affect the cervix, vagina, vulva, and anus. When appropriately treated, cancer of these sites may be prevented. The link between infection with human papilloma virus (HPV) and these conditions has been well established. Most women diagnosed with dysplasia of the cervix have had an abnormal cervical Pap test. And most men and women with dysplasia of the anus have an abnormal anal Pap test. Clinical services are available to any woman diagnosed with cervical, vaginal or vulvar dysplasia. Any woman with an abnormal cervical Pap smear may also be eligible for evaluation. Clinical services are also available for the screening and treatment of anal dysplasia in men and women.

  • Surgery

    The main goal of surgery is to attempt a cure by removing the cancer from your vagina. During the surgery, a biopsy may be performed on the lymph nodes in the groin and the pelvis, where vaginal cancer often spreads, or metastasizes. The results of your biopsy will help your doctor see if the cancer has spread. If the lymph nodes have cancer cells, the doctor may need to remove other tissue during surgery. Surgery for vaginal cancer may include:

    • Laser Surgery: Instead of a knife, a laser beam makes bloodless cuts in the vagina to remove a tumor or surface lesion.

    • Wide Local Excision: If the tumor is relatively small, the surgeon can take out the cancer and some of the healthy tissue around it.

    • Vaginectomy: This surgery removes all or part of the vagina.

    • Total Hysterectomy: If the vaginal lesion involves the cervix or uterus, the best surgical option may be to remove the uterus, including the cervix. At Sylvester, 80 to 90 percent of hysterectomies are now done robotically.

    • Lymph Node Dissection: The surgeon may take out one or more lymph nodes to check under a microscope for signs of cancer. Pelvic lymph nodes may be removed for a cancer is in the upper vagina. If the cancer is in the lower vagina, groin lymph nodes may be removed.

  • Radiation Therapy

    In the case of smaller tumors, doctors often use radiation therapy to treat vaginal cancer. Your doctor may use low-dose chemotherapy along with radiation therapy (chemoradiation) to make your treatment more effective. After surgery, you may undergo radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.

  • Internal RadiationTherapy

    Radiation therapy is given as close to the cancer as possible. For early-stage vaginal cancer, the radiation source is placed in the vagina.

  • Chemotherapy

    Chemotherapy is a combination of cancer-fighting drugs that can be administered intravenously to kill any remaining cancer cells in the body.

  • Topical Chemotherapy

    A cream or lotion that may be given for squamous cell vaginal cancer, applied to the vagina.


Every new patient exam at Sylvester starts with a detailed history. That may be followed by the following exams or tests:

  • Physical Examination, Including a Pelvic Examination 

    During this exam, the doctor checks the vagina, rectum, and lower abdomen for masses or growths. A Pap test may be done as part of the pelvic examination to check for any signs of cancer or pre-cancer, infection or inflammation.

  • Colposcopy

    This test uses a special magnifying device called a colposcope is used to look at your vulva, vagina, and cervix. If a problem is seen during colposcopy, a small sample of tissue (biopsy) may be taken to be checked for cancer cells.

  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan 

    Much more detailed than regular X-rays, a CT scan uses a series of X-rays and a computer to create images of the body. It can help show where the cancer is growing and if it has spread to other parts of your body.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) 

    With an MRI, you technician uses large magnets, radio frequencies, and a computer to make detailed images of your organs and tissues.

  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan 

    Cancer cells use more sugar than normal cells, so sugar collects in those cells. For a PET scan, a radioactive sugar is injected into your bloodstream. This scan may spot cancer in different areas of the body even when it isn't picked up by other tests. It can also determine the effectiveness of your current cancer treatment.

Accepted Insurances

Note: Health plans that are currently contracted with UHealth are listed below. However, please check with your insurance provider to verify that UHealth is part of your provider network.