Cancer is a group of many related diseases. All cancers begin in cells
, the body's basic unit of life. Cells make up tissues, and tissues make up the organs of the body.
Normally, cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old and die, new cells take their place.
Sometimes this orderly process goes wrong. New cells form when the body does not need them, and old cells do not die when they should. These extra cells can form a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor
Tumors can be benign or malignant.
Benign tumors are not cancer.
Usually, doctors can remove them. Cells from benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body. In most cases, benign tumors do not come back after they are removed. Most important, benign tumors are rarely a threat to life.
Malignant tumors are cancer.
They are generally more serious. Cancer cells can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Also, cancer cells can break away from a malignant tumor and enter the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. That is how cancer cells spread from the original (primary
) tumor to form new tumors in other organs. The spread of cancer is called metastasis
The vagina is a 3- to 4-inch (7 ½- to 10-cm) tube. It is sometimes called the birth canal and reaches from the cervix (the lower part of the uterus) to open up at the vulva (the external genitals). The vagina is lined by a layer of flat cells called squamous cells. This layer of cells is also called epithelium or epithelial lining, because it is formed by epithelial cells.
The vaginal wall underneath the epithelium contains connective tissue, muscle tissue, lymph vessels, and nerves. The vagina is usually in a collapsed state with its walls touching each other. The vaginal walls have many folds that help the vagina to open and expand during sexual intercourse or the birth of a baby. Glands near the opening of the vagina secrete mucus to keep the vaginal lining moist.
Vaginal Cancer is not common. When found in early stages, it can often be cured. There are two main types of vaginal cancer:
Squamous Cell Carcinoma:
Cancer that forms in squamous cells, the thin, flat cells lining the vagina. This cancer spreads slowly and usually stays near the vagina, but may spread to the lungs and liver. This is the most common type of vaginal cancer and is found most often in women aged 60 or older.
Cancer that begins in glandular (secretory) cells. Glandular cells in the lining of the vagina make and release fluids such as mucas. Adenocarcinoma is more likely than squamous cell cancer to spread to the lungs and lymph nodes and is found most often in women aged 30 or younger.