Vulvar cancer is a type of cancer that develops on the female genitalia’s outer surface. The vulva is the skin that covers the urethra and vagina, as well as the clitoris and labia.
Vulvar cancer typically manifests as a lump or sore on the vulva, which causes itching. Vulvar cancer can occur at any age, but it is most commonly diagnosed in older adults.
Surgery to remove cancer and a small amount of surrounding healthy tissue is usually used to treat vulvar cancer. Vulvar cancer surgery may necessitate the removal of the entire vulva. The earlier vulvar cancer is detected, the less likely it will require extensive surgery for treatment.
Among the signs and symptoms of vulvar cancer are:
Itching that will not go away
Tenderness and discomfort
Non-menstrual bleeding Skin changes, such as color changes or thickening
A lump, warty bumps, or an open wound (ulcer)
When should you see a doctor?
If you have any persistent symptoms that concern you, make an appointment with your primary care physician or gynecologist
It is unknown what causes vulvar cancer.
In general, doctors believe that cancer begins when a cell’s DNA undergoes changes (mutations). The instructions that tell a cell what to do are contained in the DNA. The mutations instruct the cell to grow and divide quickly. When other normal cells would die, the cell and its offspring continue to live. The accumulating cells form a cancerous tumor, invading nearby tissue and spreading to other parts of the body.
Vulvar cancer types
Your doctor can plan the most effective treatment based on the type of cell in which vulvar cancer begins. The following are the most common types of vulvar cancer:
Squamous cell carcinoma of the vulvar. This cancer begins in the thin, flat cells that line the vulva’s surface. Squamous cell carcinomas account for the majority of vulvar cancers.
Melanoma of the vulvar region. This cancer starts in the pigment-producing cells found in the vulva’s skin.
Although the exact cause of vulvar cancer is unknown, certain factors appear to increase your risk, including:
1. Getting older. Vulvar cancer increases with age, but it can occur at any age. The average diagnosis age is 65.
2. Being infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that raises the risk of a variety of cancers, including vulvar and cervical cancer. Many young, sexually active people are infected with HPV, but the infection usually resolves on its own. For some, the infection causes cell changes and raises the risk of future cancer.
3. Smoking. Cigarette smoking raises the risk of vulvar cancer.
4. Having a compromised immune system. People who take immune-suppressing medications, such as those who have had an organ transplant, and those who have conditions that weaken the immune system, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), are at an increased risk of vulvar cancer.
5. Having a history of vulvar precancerous conditions. Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia is a precancerous condition that raises the chances of developing vulvar cancer. The vast majority of cases of vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia do not progress to cancer, but a small percentage do. As a result, your doctor may advise treatment to remove the abnormal cells and periodic follow-up checks.
6. Having a skin condition that affects the vulva. Lichen sclerosis, which causes thin and itchy vulvar skin, raises the risk of vulvar cancer.
Reduce your chances of contracting a sexually transmitted infection.
Reduce your risk of the sexually transmitted infection HPV to lower your risk of vulvar cancer:
1 Use a condom whenever you have sex. Condoms may reduce your chances of contracting HPV, but they do not provide complete protection.
2 Obtain the HPV vaccine. Children and young adults may benefit from the HPV vaccine, which protects against the strains of the virus thought to cause the majority of vulvar cancer cases.
Inquire with your doctor about pelvic exams.
Inquire with your doctor about how frequently you should have a pelvic exam. These exams allow your doctor to visually inspect your vulva as well as manually inspect your internal reproductive organs for abnormalities.
Consult your doctor about your risk factors for vulvar cancer and other pelvic cancers to determine the best screening schedule for you.