The vagina is an elastic “tube” that is approximately 10 cm long and is compressed by the surrounding organs. It is also the organ that receives the penis during sexual intercourse and through which babies are released during childbirth. The moist, smooth surface for the reception of the penis is created by a mucous membrane, which also creates an acidic environment (pH value of around 4) and thereby counteracts the growth of unwanted bacteria. The vagina must be able to expand considerably at birth, but also contract again afterwards. This is achieved through a layer of muscle and a surrounding layer of elastic connective tissue.
Vaginal cancer is a very rare type of tumour that affects only about one in 200,000 women each year.
The causes of vaginal carcinoma are largely unknown, but the following risk factors are suspected to play a role:
Infections with the human papilloma virus (HPV), especially type 16, are associated with the development of vaginal carcinomas. HPV infections are very common, but HPV-associated mutations are rare.