The vagina, also called the birth canal, is a small tube-like organ that connects the cervix (lower part of the uterus) to the vulva (outer genital in a female body). Vaginal cancer occurs in the cells lining the surface of the vagina. However, it is a rare type of cancer. It is mostly common in women above the age of 60 and those who may have had been exposed to the drug Diethylstilbestrol (DES)*, a synthetic non-steroidal oestrogen, in their mother’s womb. Other risk factors include having the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, cervical cancer, chronic vaginal itching or burning or a weak immune system due to a disease like HIV. In addition to these, smoking doubles the risk of vaginal cancer.
*during the 1950s, the drug DES was giving to women to prevent miscarriages. Women exposed to this drug in their mother’s womb are most likely to develop the vaginal cancer.
© The Aga Khan University Hospital