Vulval cancer is a rare cancer that affects women with 1,200 new cases diagnosed in the UK each year.
The vulva is the area of skin between a woman’s legs or the outer part of the vagina which is a woman’s external genitals. The vulva consists of:
- – Labia majora (two outer lips)
- – Labia Minora (two inner lips)
- – Vaginal opening
- – Opening or urethra
- – Clitoris
Cancer of the vulva affects older women over the age of 65; it’s rare in women under 50 or anyone that has not gone through menopause.
Causes of Vulval Cancer
Human Papilloma Virus: HPV: 40%- 70% of women diagnosed with vulval cancer have HPV. It’s a common infection with 80% of women having it at some point in their lives, which can be passed on during sex.
Skin conditions: Lichen sclerosus, Lichen planus and Paget’s disease all increase the risk of cancer of the vulva.
Age: As with many cancers, the risk of developing vulval cancer increases with age.
Vulval Intraepithelial Neoplasia (VIN): This is changes in the skin covering the vulva. Common symptoms of this are an itch that doesn’t go away and changes to the appearance.
Weakened Immune System: Women with HIV and AIDS are at a higher risk of developing this cancer and also people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus) a chronic auto immune disease.
Genital Herpes Infection: Genital herpes virus 2 can increase the risk of vulval cancer.
Exposure to previous radiation: Having previous cancers treated with radiotherapy can cause changes to the cells in other areas. Radiotherapy for womb cancer, cervical cancer and other cancers in the reproductive area can increase vulval cancer years later.
Signs and symptoms
Symptoms of vulval cancer are:
- – Mole on the vulva that has changed in size, shape or colour
- – Pain, tenderness or soreness of the vulva
- – Lump, swelling or a wart-like growth on the vulva
- – Burning pain when passing urine
- – The skin on vulva bleeding
- – Blood stained discharge (not period-related bleeding)
- – Thickened, raised, red, dark or white patched on the skin of the vulva
- – Persistent Itch on the vulva
If you notice any of these symptoms, please visit your doctor. These are the common symptoms of vulval cancer, however, these can also relate to other conditions.
Vulval Cancer Treatment
Treatment will depend on the severity of the cancer, if it has spread, the location etc. You may need just one stand alone treatment or a combination of the following.
- – Radiotherapy
- – Chemotherapy
- – Surgery
- – Clinical Trials