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Pre-Invasive Diseases of the Vulva, Vagina and Cervix 

A pre-invasive—or pre-cancerous—disease is characterized by changes to cells that make them more likely to become cancerous in the future. Pre-invasive diseases can affect the vulva, vagina and cervix, which are female reproductive organs that are also vulnerable to cancer growth.  

Some of the most common pre-invasive diseases in this area of the body include:  

  • Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) – Also known as dysplasia, VIN causes changes in the vulva’s epithelial cells.  
  • Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) – This refers to pre-cancerous changes in the epithelial cells of the cervix. Other pre-invasive diseases affecting the cervix include squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL) and atypical glandular cells (AGC).  
  • Vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN) – This condition typically affects the epithelial cells in the upper portion of the vagina and often occurs alongside CIN. 

Causes  

The main risk factor for pre-invasiveness diseases of the vulva, vagina and cervix is infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV). Other factors that may increase a woman’s likelihood of developing pre-cancerous cellular changes include: 

  • Smoking  
  • Having a compromised immune system  
  • Being diagnosed with lichen sclerosus, an inflammatory skin disorder

Symptoms    

Neoplasia affecting the vagina and cervix isn’t usually associated with noticeable symptoms. Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia, on the other hand, may cause:  

  • Pain during sex  
  • Itching around the vulva  
  • Changes to the skin around the vulva, such as thickening, discoloration, redness or wart growth 
  • Pain or burning during urination  
  • Tingling sensations around the vulva 

Diagnosis    

Diagnosing a pre-invasive disease of the vulva, vagina or cervix typically begins with a pelvic exam. Routine Pap tests can also identify pre-cancerous changes in the cells of the cervix and vagina. Other diagnostic tests that may be performed to confirm neoplasia include:  

  • Colposcopy 
  • Endocervical curettage  
  • Biopsy of abnormal-looking tissue  
  • Follow-up Pap tests 

Treatments 

The experts at Tampa General Hospital’s Women’s Institute provide a full spectrum of care to patients with pre-cancerous conditions and collaborate with specialists in our Cancer Institute to deliver world-class care to women with gynecological malignancies. Careful monitoring is an important part of treatment for women with pre-invasive diseases of the vulva, vagina or cervix. Depending on a woman’s age and cancer risk factors, topical therapies or preventive surgery to remove affected tissues or organs may be recommended.