Vulvar cancer is found on the area of the skin that surrounds the urethra and vagina, including the clitoris and labia. It commonly forms as a lump or sore on the vulva that often causes itching, but develops slowly over several years. Precancerous lesions usually develop first and are discovered as abnormal cell growths in the outermost layer of skin.
What Causes Vulvar Cancer?
Vulvar cancer is rare, with about 6,000 new cases in the United States each year. Cases of vulvar cancer are often caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) or a chronic skin condition called lichen sclerosus.
However, there are other risk factors that can increase your chances of developing vulvar cancer, such as:
- Increasing age
- Having a history of genital warts
- Having a weakened immune system
- Having many sexual partners
What Are the Symptoms of Vulvar Cancer?
Vulvar cancer may not cause noticeable symptoms, especially in its early stages.
However, some symptoms can include:
- Itching or burning in the vulvar area
- Bleeding not related to menstrual periods
- Skin changes such as discoloration
- A lump, growth, rash or other type of sore
- Pelvic pain while having sex or urinating
How Is Vulvar Cancer Diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider or a member of the gynecological oncology team at Tampa General Hospital can help you diagnose vulvar cancer with various tests and exams that may include:
- A vulvar and pelvic exam
- A biopsy of vulvar tissue
- A Pap test
- A colposcopy
How Is Vulvar Cancer Treated?
Various factors will determine how your vulvar cancer will be treated, such as the stage of your cancer, your age and general health and whether the cancer is newly diagnosed or reoccurring. Overall, different treatment options for vulvar cancer include:
- Surgery, such as a vulvectomy
- Radiation therapy
- Biologic therapy