- Posted by jdavis on August 31, 2011
Vaginal cancer is rare. It accounts for about 3% of all reproductive cancers in women. About 2,420 women will be diagnosed with the disease this year.
Doctors do not know what causes vaginal cancer and there is no known way to prevent it. Certain factors can make you more likely to get this type of cancer than another woman, but most women who develop it have no known risk factors at all. The risk factors that have been found only slightly raise your chances of getting the disease. Still, tell your doctor if you agree with any of the bolded statements.
I am older than 60. Most women are older than 60 when diagnosed with vaginal cancer.
I have HPV infection that doesn’t go away. Human papillomaviruses (HPV) are a group of viruses that can cause genital warts or precancerous disease. If you are infected with certain subtypes of HPV, you may be more at risk for vaginal squamous cell carcinoma.
I have cervical or vulvar cancer. Having cervical cancer or a precancerous condition of the cervix may increase your risk for squamous cell carcinoma of the vagina. Having vulvar cancer may also increase your risk.
I smoke. Just as smoking increases the risk for cervical cancer, it may also increase the risk for vaginal cancer.
My mother took DES. If your mother took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) when pregnant with you, you may be more at risk for getting clear cell adenocarcinoma of the vagina. DES is a drug that helped prevent miscarriages and was generally taken by pregnant women in the 1940’s to 1960.
I have vaginal adenosis. This is a change in the cells lining the vagina. Normally, the cells of the vaginal lining are flat squamous cells. But, in some women, areas of the vagina may develop cells that look more like those found in either the glands of the lower uterus or the upper uterine lining. It happens in almost all women who were exposed to DES in utero. In women with adenosis who were not exposed to DES, the risk for clear cell adenocarcinoma is not known.