Locations Main Campus: Chesterfield, MO 63017   |   Locations
314-434-1500 314-434-1500   |   Contact Us

Multimedia Encyclopedia


 
E-mail Form
Email Results

 
 
Print-Friendly
Bookmarks
bookmarks-menu

Vulva cancer

Cancer - vulva; Cancer - perineum; Cancer - vulvar; Genital warts - vulvar cancer; HPV - vulvar cancer

 

Vulvar cancer is cancer that starts in the vulva. Vulvar cancer most often affects the labia, the folds of skin outside the vagina. In some cases, vulvar cancer starts on the clitoris or in glands on the sides of the vaginal opening.

Causes

 

Most vulvar cancers begin in skin cells called squamous cells. Other types of cancers found on the vulva are:

  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma
  • Sarcoma

Vulvar cancer is rare. Risk factors include:

  • Human papilloma virus (HPV, or genital warts) infection in women under age 50
  • Chronic skin changes such as lichen sclerosis or squamous hyperplasia in women over age 50
  • History of cervical cancer or vaginal cancer
  • Smoking

Women with a condition called vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) have a high risk of developing vulvar cancer that spreads. Most cases of VIN, though, never lead to cancer.

 

Symptoms

 

Women with this condition will often have itching around the vagina for years. They may have used different skin creams. They may also have bleeding.

Other skin changes that may occur around the vulva:

  • Mole or freckle, which may be pink, red, white, or gray
  • Skin thickening or lump
  • Skin sore (ulcer)

Other symptoms:

  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Unusual odor

Some women with vulvar cancer have no symptoms.

 

Exams and Tests

 

The following tests are used to diagnose vulvar cancer:

  • Biopsy
  • CT scan or MRI of the pelvis to look for cancer spread
  • Pelvic examination to look for any skin changes

 

Treatment

 

Treatment involves surgery to remove the cancer cells. If the tumor is large (more than 2 cm) or has grown deeply into the skin, the lymph nodes in the groin area may also be removed.

Radiation, with or without chemotherapy, may be used to treat advanced tumors or vulvar cancer that comes back.

 

Support Groups

 

You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.

 

Outlook (Prognosis)

 

Most women with vulvar cancer who are diagnosed and treated at an early stage do well. But a woman's outcome depends on:

  • The size of the tumor
  • The type of vulvar cancer
  • Whether the cancer has spread

The cancer commonly comes back at or near the site of the original tumor.

 

Possible Complications

 

Complications may include:

  • Spread of the cancer to other areas of the body
  • Side effects of radiation, surgery, or chemotherapy

 

When to Contact a Medical Professional

 

Call your health care provider if you have any of these symptoms for more than 2 weeks:

  • Local irritation
  • Skin color change
  • Sore on the vulva

 

Prevention

 

Practicing safer sex may decrease your risk of vulvar cancer. This includes using condoms to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

A vaccine is available to protect against certain forms of HPV infection. The vaccine is approved to prevent cervical cancer and genital warts. It may help prevent other cancers linked to HPV, such as vulvar cancer. The vaccine is given to young girls before they become sexually active, and to adolescents and women up to age 26.

Routine pelvic exams can help diagnose vulvar cancer at an earlier stage. Earlier diagnosis improves your chances that treatment will be successful.

 

 

References

Jhingran A, Russell AH, Seiden MV, et al. Cancers of the cervix, vulva, and vagina. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 87.

National Cancer Institute: PDQ Vulvar Cancer Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated February 11, 2016. cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/vulvar/HealthProfessional. Accessed March 17, 2016.

Russell AH, Horowitz NS. Cancers of the vulva and vagina. In: Gunderson LL, ed. Gunderson and Tepper: Clinical Radiation Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 60.

 
  • Female perineal anatomy

    Female perineal anatomy - illustration

    The female external reproductive anatomy includes the vagina.

    Female perineal anatomy

    illustration

    • Female perineal anatomy

      Female perineal anatomy - illustration

      The female external reproductive anatomy includes the vagina.

      Female perineal anatomy

      illustration

    A Closer Look

     

      Talking to your MD

       

        Self Care

         

        Tests for Vulva cancer

         

         

        Review Date: 2/12/2016

        Reviewed By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

        The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
        adam.com

         
         
         

         

         

        A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.



        Content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.