The vulva is the external part of a woman’s sex organs. Vulvar cancer symptoms can include:
All these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, such as infection but if you have any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor.
Vulvar cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the tissues of the vulva grow in an uncontrolled way. It can also be called cancer of the vulva, vulval cancer or vulva cancer.
The vulvar is the external part of a woman’s sex organs and consists of soft fatty tissue covered with pubic hair called the Mons Pubis, the labia – consisting of the two outer larger lips (the labia majora), two inner smaller and thinner lips (the labia minora), the clitoris and the perineum (the skin between the vulva and anus).
Cancer of the vulvar may involve any of these external female sex organs. The most common areas for it to develop are the inner edges of the labia majora and the labia minora.
Less often, vulvar cancer may also involve the clitoris or the Bartholin’s glands (small glands, one on each side of the vagina). It can also affect the perineum.
Usually, it is not possible to determine what exactly causes vulvar cancer in a particular woman but known risk factors include:
You can read more about vulvar cancer here.
Yes, the main treatments used for vulvar cancer are surgery, radiotherapy and sometimes chemotherapy. A combination of treatments may be suggested depending on the type of cancer, where it is and your general health.
Surgery options for vulvar cancer include:
Sometimes surgeons use a laser to destroy abnormal cells. A laser is a thin, high powered beam of light that your surgeon can use instead of a surgical blade (scalpel).
The stage of vulvar cancer and grade of the cancer cells can be determined through testing. Depending on the relative size of the cancer, how far it has spread and how quickly it may develop, your health practitioner will recommend the most appropriate treatment. This may involve surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy or a combination.
Radiotherapy uses radiation to kill or damage cancer cells. The use of this treatment for vulvar cancer depends on the stage and size of the cancer, as well as whether it has spread to the lymph nodes. This form of treatment may be given instead of, or in combination with, surgery.
Chemotherapy destroys or slows the growth of cancer cells through the use of specialised drugs. It is commonly given by injection but can also be administered in a tablet or cream form. Chemotherapy may be given to control cancer which has spread, in conjunction with radiotherapy or as palliative treatment to help with symptom relief.
Not smoking and immunisation against HPV may help to reduce the likelihood of developing vulvar cancer.
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