Vulvar Cancer

Vulvar cancer is a type of cancer that occurs on the outer surface area of the female genitalia. This commonly forms as a lump or sore on the vulva that often causes itching.

Frequently, itching is associated with vulvar cancer. Other possible symptoms include pain and tenderness, bleeding not from menstruation, skin changes or a lump.

Treatments for Vulvar Cancer

Your treatment will depend on the type and stage of your cancer, along with your overall health and preferences. The three main types include surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

Our nationally-accredited team of gynecological oncologists will design a treatment plan that focuses on the options that will be most effective for you. We have the most medically-advanced, groundbreaking treatment approaches for vulvar cancer. We're at the forefront of less invasive surgical approaches, medications and radiation therapies.

Biologic Therapy
A biologic therapy cream may be applied to the skin to treat vulvar lesions.

This well-known cancer treatment uses medicines taken intravenously or by mouth to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy may be given before surgery to shrink tumors, or after to fight cancer cells that have potentially spread.

Laser Surgery
This minimally invasive technique uses a powerful beam of light to destroy abnormal cells.

Local Excision
This surgery removes cancerous tissue and a surrounding rim of healthy tissue. It's also called wide excision. In early stages, this may be all that's needed if lymph nodes are clear.

Radiation Oncology
A team of medical professionals with advanced training deliver radiation treatment and care.

Surgical removal of part or all of the vulvar tissues, depending on the extent and location of the cancer.

What Is Vulvar Cancer?

Cancer of the vulva affects the outer part of a woman’s reproductive system. This area includes the opening of the vagina, labia (vaginal lips), clitoris, and skin and tissue covering the pubic bone. Most often, the cancer occurs on inner edges of vaginal lips.

This cancer is rather rare. Less than 1% of all cancers in women are vulvar cancers, usually in women older than 50 years.

What Causes Vulvar Cancer?

The cause is unknown, but some things can give women greater chances of getting this cancer. These things are longterm inflammation (swelling, redness) of the vulva, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, and prior cervical or vaginal cancer. HPV causes genital warts, a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

What Are the Symptoms of Vulvar Cancer?

Common symptoms may include pain during sex or with urination, long-lasting itching in the vulva region, thickening or lump on the labia, rough white area on the vulva, and blood or discharge that isn’t related to normal menstrual periods.

How Is Vulvar Cancer Diagnosed?

The health care provider can often see early changes in the vulva during a routine pelvic examination. Because of the examination and symptoms, the health care provider may order a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. A biopsy involves taking a small piece of tissue for study with a microscope. An instrument called a colposcope may be used to do the biopsy. This tool has magnifying lenses for looking at the vagina and lets the doctor pick the best spot for a biopsy.

If biopsy results show cancer cells, other tests may be done to see if the cancer spread and how far.

How Is Vulvar Cancer Treated?

Treatment depends on the type and size of cancer and its spread.

For very small cancers that are in only one spot, a laser beam can be used to burn off the top layer of skin that contains the cancer cells.

Surgery called excision or simple partial vulvectomy is often used to remove abnormal cells and some healthy tissue nearby. For large cancers, an operation called a vulvectomy may be needed. In this operation, all or part of the vulva is removed.

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing Vulvar Cancer:
  • DO have regular check-ups, to catch problems early.
  • DO reduce your risk factors as much as possible. A large percentage of women with vulvar cancer have HPV infection. Practice safe sex. Use condoms if you think that there’s any chance of catching an STD.
  • DO talk to your health care provider about getting vaccinated for HPV (Gardasil®) if you are between ages 13 and 26.
  • DO call your health care provider if you notice skin changes on your labia.
  • DO call your health care provider if you have vaginal bleeding that’s not related to your period.
  • DON’T ignore thickening of the skin or sores on your labia.

Contact the following source:

  • American Cancer Society
    Tel: (800) 227-2345

Copyright © 2016 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.

Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor