Vulvar Cancer

At a Glance

  • Vulvar cancer is primarily a disease of elderly women.
  • Vulvar cancer is rare, and it is highly curable when diagnosed in an early stage.
  • Estimated new cases and deaths from vulvar cancer in the United States in 2010 are 3,900 and 920 respectively.

What is it?

Vulvar cancer is a rare disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of woman’s external genitalia, the vulva, which includes the inner and outer lips of the vagina, the clitoris (sensitive tissue between the lips), and the opening of the vagina and its glands. Vulvar cancer most often affects the outer vaginal lips. Less often, cancer affects the inner vaginal lips or the clitoris.

Vulvar cancer is primarily a disease of elderly women but has been observed in premenopausal women as well. It is most commonly squamous cell carcinoma in type, though other histologic types do occur. Vulvar cancer is highly curable when diagnosed in an early stage. Estimated new cases and deaths from vulvar cancer in the United States in 2010 are 3,900 and 920 respectively.

Vulvar cancer usually develops slowly over a period of years. Abnormal cells can grow on the surface of the vulvar skin for a long time. This precancerous condition is called vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) or dysplasia. Because it is possible for VIN or dysplasia to develop into vulvar cancer, treatment of this condition is very important.

Risk Factors

Risk factors include the following:

  • Having human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
  • Older age.

Symptoms

Possible signs of vulvar cancer include:

  • A lump in the vulva.
  • Itching that does not go away in the vulvar area.
  • Bleeding not related to menstruation (periods).
  • Tenderness in the vulvar area.

If you have been experiencing symptoms associated with Vulvar Cancer, or at an increased risk, contact us to learn more about diagnosis.