Cancer of the vulva forms in the vulva, the external genital organ area of a woman. The vulva includes these parts:
It is crucial for women to be aware of their risk of vulvar cancer and remain vigilant about changes in their bodies, discussing any concerns with a doctor.
Vulvar cancer is a relatively rare malignancy that can develop on any part of the external genital organs, but most often affects the labia majora or labia minora. Accounting for 0.6 percent of all cancers in women, vulva cancer typically forms slowly over many years. Nearly 90 percent of vulvar cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, with melanoma being the second most common type, usually found in the labia minora or clitoris. Other types of vulvar cancer include:
Basal cell carcinoma
A risk factor is any element that could increase an individual's likelihood of developing a disease. It can be an activity, such as smoking, diet, family history, or other variables. Different diseases, including cancers, are associated with different risk factors.
It is important to note that having one or more risk factors doesn't guarantee the development of a disease. Some individuals with identified risk factors never experience the associated disease, while others may develop the disease without apparent risk factors.
Understanding your risk factors for any disease can be helpful in appropriate actions, including changing behaviours and undergoing clinical monitoring for early detection and intervention.
The following have been suggested as risk factors for vulvar cancer:
The following are the most common symptoms of vulvar cancer. However, individual experiences with symptoms can vary. Common symptoms may include:
The symptoms of vulvar cancer may resemble those of other conditions or medical problems. Please consult your doctor when in doubt.
Vulvar cancer is diagnosed by biopsy, which involves the removal of a tissue
section for examination by a pathologist.
This may involve any or all of the following:
After treatment, women with vulvar cancer will need to have regular
check-ups. During these visits, the doctor may perform a pelvic examination.
Other tests, including ultrasound, chest X-ray and computed tomography, will be
done only when needed.