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There are five types of vaginal cancer according to the type of cell where the cancer starts.
I. Squamous cell carcinomas is/are the most common type of vaginal cancer. It represents 85 to 90 percent of all vaginal cancers. Squamous cell carcinoma develops within the epithelium (the first, thin layer of cells that lines the vaginal walls see illustration) and it tends to start in the upper part of the vagina close to the cervix. It undergoes a slow progress being preceded by a pre-cancerous changes called vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia - VAIN- (that can be detected in time and treated), and it develops over many years. The tumors look like nodules (small lumps) or sores (ulcers) of different sizes. This type of cancer is more common among women between the age of 50 and 70.
III. Malignant melanoma is a rare type of vaginal cancer, and it represents around 2 percent of all vaginal cancers. This cancer develops within the skin cells that produce pigment (it gives the skin its color). Melanoma is more common in women around the age of 50, but there are cases of younger (even around the age of 22) or older (83 years old) women diagnosed with this cancer. Melanoma develops within the lower part of the vagina.
IV. Sarcomas, in general, are a type of cancer that develops within the connective tissues that form the body structure (such as bone, fat, muscle, and cartilage). Sarcoma, as a vaginal cancer, is a rare form of cancer that develops deep within the vaginal walls. It accounts for 3 percent of all vaginal cancers. This type of cancer develops and grows fast. There are three types of vaginal sarcomas:
V. Small cell vaginal cancer (also called oat cell carcinoma) is an extremely rare form of vaginal cancer. The cancerous cells, when examined under microscope, have a distinctive oat shape. Worldwide, up to this moment, there were reported only 20 cases of small cell vaginal cancer.
Article by Alina Morrow, MS
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