Cancer of the vulval (also called vulvar cancer or vulval cancer) is a type of cancer that occurs on the outer surface area of the female genitalia. The vulva is the area of the skin that surrounds the urethra and vagina, including the clitoris and labia.
Vulvar cancer commonly forms as a lump or sore on the vulva that often causes itching. Though it can occur at any age, vulvar cancer is most commonly diagnosed in older adults.
Skin conditions that cause inflammation may develop into an early vulvar cancer. The two most common of these being being vulval intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) and Lichen Sclerosus.
Types of Vulvar Cancer
There are several types of vulvar cancer;
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma – affects the flat, outer layer of the skin.
- Vulvar Melanoma – accounts for about 5 percent of all vulvar cancers. A melanoma presents as a dark patch of discoloration. There is a high risk of this type of cancer spreading to other parts of the body, a process known as metastasis.
- Adenocarcinoma – originates in the glandular tissue, and in this case, the cells line the glands in the vulva.
- Sarcoma – originates in the connective tissue. Most cancers of this type are malignant. It is rare.
- Verrucous Carcinoma – is a subtype of the squamous cell cancer, and it tends to appear as a slowly growing wart.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of vulvar cancer may include;
- Itching that doesn’t go away
- Pain and tenderness
- Bleeding that isn’t from menstruation
- Skin changes, such as color changes or thickening
- A lump, wart like bumps or an open sore
The main treatment for vulvar cancer is surgery to remove the cancerous tissue from the vulva and any lymph nodes containing cancerous cells.
Some people may also have radiotherapy (where radiation is used to destroy cancer cells) or chemotherapy (where medication is used to kill cancer cells), or both.
Radiotherapy and chemotherapy may be used without surgery if the patient is not well enough to have an operation, or if the cancer has spread and it isn’t possible to remove it all.
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