Prognosis and survival for vaginal cancer

If you have vaginal cancer, you may have questions about your prognosis. A prognosis is the doctor’s best estimate of how cancer will affect someone and how it will respond to treatment. Prognosis and survival depend on many factors. Only a doctor familiar with your medical history, the type, stage and characteristics of your cancer, the treatments chosen and the response to treatment can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.

A prognostic factor is an aspect of the cancer or a characteristic of the person that the doctor will consider when making a prognosis. A predictive factor influences how a cancer will respond to a certain treatment. Prognostic and predictive factors are often discussed together. They both play a part in deciding on a treatment plan and a prognosis.

The following are prognostic and predictive factors for vaginal cancer.


The most important prognostic factor for vaginal cancer is the stage of the disease. The earlier the stage, the more favourable the prognosis.

Tumour size, tumour volume and local extent

Tumour size is the tumour’s widest part, or greatest dimension. Tumour volume refers to all 3 dimensions of the tumour – its height, width and thickness. Data shows that smaller tumour size and volume is a more favourable prognostic factor than larger tumour size and volume.

Local extent is how far the tumour grows into the wall of the vagina and into surrounding tissues. The farther the tumour has grown into the wall of the vagina and surrounding tissue, the less favourable the prognosis.

Type of tumour

The type of vaginal tumour is an important prognostic factor. Squamous cell carcinoma has a more favourable prognosis than other tumour types, such as vaginal melanoma. Clear cell carcinoma in women whose mothers took diethylstilbestrol while pregnant appears to have a better prognosis than other types of adenocarcinomas.


Low-grade tumours, which grow slower and are less likely to spread, have a more favourable prognosis.

Spread to lymph nodes

Vaginal cancer that has not spread to lymph nodes has a better prognosis than vaginal cancer that has spread to lymph nodes.

Location of the tumour

Tumours in the middle and lower third of the vagina or those on the back wall of the vagina have a less favourable prognosis.


Women who have symptoms at the time of diagnosis tend to have a less favourable prognosis.

Age and general health

Younger women tend to have a better outlook than women older than 60. Women who have good general health other than the cancer also tend to have a better prognosis.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Vaginal Cancer. 2014:
  • Klopp AH, Eifel PJ, Berek JS, Konstantinopoulos PA . Cancer of the cervix, vagina and vulva. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 72:1013-1047.
  • Levine DA, Dizon DS, Yashar CM, Barakat RR, Berchuch A, Markman M, Randall ME. Handbook for Principles and Practice of Gynecologic Oncology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer; 2015.
  • National Cancer Institute. Vaginal Cancer Treatment for Health Professionals (PDQ®). 2015:
  • Oleszewski K . Vulvar and vaginal cancer. Yarbro, CH, Wujcki D, & Holmes Gobel B. (eds.). Cancer Nursing: Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett; 2011: 69: pp. 1719-1739.

Survival statistics for vaginal cancer

Survival statistics for vaginal cancer are very general estimates and must be interpreted very carefully. Because these statistics are based on the experience of groups of people, they cannot be used to predict a particular person’s chances of survival.

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

We do our best to make sure that the information we provide is accurate and reliable but cannot guarantee that it is error-free or complete.

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