Vulval cancer is a rare form of cancer that affects women’s external genitalia, particularly the vulva, which is the area encompassing the mons pubis (the pad of fatty tissue covered with pubic hair), labia majora and labia minora (outer and inner lips of the vagina), clitoris, and the Bartholin’s glands (two small glands each side of the vagina).

The exact cause of vulval cancer is unknown, but factors that increase the risk can include older age, the presence of the human papilloma virus (HPV), and certain skin conditions that affect the vulva. The most common type of vulval cancer is squamous cell carcinoma.

Vulval cancer

Symptoms can include ongoing itching, a persistent pain, soreness or tenderness in the vulva, a lump, thickness or swelling in the vulva, bleeding or discharge not related to menstruation, and changes in the skin such as colour changes or wart-like growths.

Treatment options typically involve surgery to remove the cancerous cells, and may also include radiation and chemotherapy. It’s worth emphasizing that with early diagnosis and treatment, the prognosis for vulval cancer can be quite good. As such, women are advised to regularly self-examine for any noticeable changes that could be early signs of the disease.

Causes of Vulval cancer

Vulval cancer is a rare form of cancer that affects women’s external genitalia, particularly the labia and clitoris. While the exact cause of vulval cancer is not known, certain factors may increase the risk:

1. Age: The risk of vulval cancer increases with age. It is most often diagnosed in older women, with more than half of cases occurring in women over the age of 70.

2. HPV Infection: The human papilloma virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection linked to a number of cancers, including vulval cancer. Having HPV does not mean you will get cancer, but it can increase the risk.

3. Skin Conditions: Certain skin conditions can increase the risk of developing vulval cancer. These include lichen sclerosus and lichen planus, which cause itching and white patches on the skin of the vulva.

4. Smoking: Women who smoke are at a higher risk of developing vulval cancer.

5. Immunodeficiency: A weakened immune system (i.e., from HIV/AIDS or drugs taken after organ transplantation) can increase the risk.

6. VIN (Vulval intraepithelial neoplasia): VIN is a precancerous condition that can develop into vulval cancer if left untreated.

7. Past history of cervical or vaginal cancer: Women who have had cervical or vaginal cancer before have an increased risk of getting vulval cancer.

It’s essential to note that not everyone with these risk factors will develop vulval cancer. Conversely, some people may develop it without any known risk factors. Regular gynecological exams and being aware of any changes can help in early detection and potentially prevent vulval cancer.

Risk Factors of Vulval cancer

Vulval cancer has several risk factors including:

1. Advanced age: The risk of developing vulval cancer increases with age. It is more common in women over the age of 60.

2. Smoking: Women who smoke are at a higher risk of getting vulval cancer, as smoking weakens the immune system and makes it more difficult to fight off harmful cells.

3. Human papillomavirus (HPV): This sexually transmitted infection has been linked to certain types of vulval cancer. Certain strains of this virus, particularly HPV-16 and HPV-18, increase the risk of developing this type of cancer.

4. Other vulval skin conditions: The risk of vulval cancer is increased for women who have certain long-term or chronic skin conditions affecting the vulva, such as lichen sclerosis or vulval intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN).

5. Weakened immune system: Women with weakened immune systems, including those with HIV or who are on medication following an organ transplant, have an increased risk of developing vulval cancer.

6. Past cervical cancer or precancer: Women who have had cervical cancer or precancerous changes in the cervix have a higher risk of developing vulval cancer.

7. Family History: Close relatives (mothers, daughters, sisters) with vulvar cancer might increase the risk due to shared genetics and environment.

Remember, having one or more risk factors does not necessarily mean you will develop the disease. It merely increases the chances of developing vulval cancer. Regular check-ups and being mindful of symptoms can help in early detection and better prognosis.

Signs and Symptoms of Vulval cancer

Vulval cancer, also known as vulvar cancer, is a type of cancer that occurs in the vulva, the external part of the female genitalia. The symptoms may not be the same for every woman and may imitate other conditions like dermatitis or infection, hence it is important to get any changes checked by your doctor.

Here are some signs and symptoms of vulval cancer:

1. Persistent Itch: Intense and persistent itching in the vulval area can be an early symptom of vulval cancer.

2. Pain and Soreness: Pain, soreness, or a burning sensation in the vulval area.

3. Skin Changes: There may be changes in color or texture of the skin around the vulva. This could include rashes, sores, or warts.

4. Abnormal Bleeding: Bleeding outside of your menstrual cycle or after menopause can be a symptom.

5. Offensive Vaginal Discharge: An enduring smelly or blood-stained vaginal discharge.

6. Pain during Sex: Experiencing pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse.

7. Visible Mass: In later stages, you might actually see a lump or mass on the vulva.

8. Swelling or Pain in the Groin Area: Swollen lymph nodes in the groin or leg swelling can be a sign of advanced vulvar cancer.

Remember, many conditions can cause these symptoms, and vulval cancer is rare. It’s important to discuss any symptoms with your healthcare provider so they can evaluate and determine the cause.

Diagnosis Vulval cancer

Vulval cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects women’s external genitalia, specifically the vulva. The vulva is the external part of a woman’s genitals, including the labia, clitoris, and the openings of the vagina and urethra.

The most common symptoms of vulval cancer can include persistent itching, pain or soreness, thickened, raised, red, white, or dark patches on the skin of the vulva, a lump or swelling in the vulva, and bleeding or a blood-stained vaginal discharge not related to menstruation.

The cause of vulval cancer isn’t exactly known, but factors that can increase your risk include age (it’s more common in older women), having persistent infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV), smoking, having a skin condition involving the vulva, such as lichen sclerosus, or having a weak immune system.

There are different types of vulval cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma (the most common type), adenocarcinoma, melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and sarcomas.

The diagnosis is usually confirmed by a biopsy, where a small sample of tissue is removed under local anesthetic and checked under a microscope. If vulval cancer is diagnosed, other tests may be required to identify the stage and to check if the cancer has spread.

The treatment for vulval cancer largely depends on the stage and type of the cancer. Early-stage vulval cancers can often be treated with surgery or radiation therapy, while advanced-stage cancers might require a combination of these and chemotherapy.

It’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider if you notice changes or anything unusual in your vulval area. Early diagnosis and proper treatment can increase the chances of effectively managing or curing the cancer.

Treatment of Vulval cancer

Vulval cancer treatment often involves a multidisciplinary approach, meaning it requires medical professionals from various fields. The specific treatment method(s) will depend on a number of factors including the size/location of the cancer, its stage at diagnosis (how far it has spread), and patient’s overall health. Here is the typical sequence of treatment options:

1. Surgery: This is the most common treatment for vulval cancer and usually involves removal of the cancerous tissues and a margin of healthy tissue around it. If the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the groin, they may also be removed. Additional procedures may include skin grafts or reconstructive surgery to manage the effects of primary surgery.

2. Radiation therap: This treatment uses high-energy beams (like X-rays) to kill cancer cells. It could be used before surgery to shrink a large tumor, after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells, or as the primary treatment if surgery isn’t an option based on patient’s health conditions. Side effects could include skin redness, discomfort, or long-term changes to the vulva’s appearance.

3. Chemotherapy: This treatment uses drugs to kill cancer cells and is usually used in conjunction with radiation therapy. It could be given orally or intravenously. Potential side effects vary depending on the specific drugs used.

4. Biological therapy: Also known as immunotherapy, this treatment aims to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer. It involves substances made by the body or in a laboratory to improve or restore immune system function.

5. Palliative care: This treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and improving quality of life. It might be used to manage pain and other physical or emotional symptoms.

Please remember it is also quite common to have psychological or emotional distress during and after cancer treatment. Therefore, consultation with a mental health professional or counselor is also recommended.

The patient should discuss all treatment options with their healthcare team before making a decision that best meets their needs.

Medications commonly used for Vulval cancer

Treatment for vulval cancer often involves a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The exact medications used can vary depending on the individual patient’s condition, but commonly used drugs include:

1. Chemotherapeutic agents: These drugs are usually given by injection into a vein (intravenous, or IV) and work by killing cancer cells or slowing their growth. Commonly used drugs for vulval cancer include:

Cisplatin: This platinum-containing drug interferes with DNA repair in cancer cells, causing them to die.

5-Fluorouracil (5-FU): This drug is incorporated into the DNA and RNA of cancer cells, inhibiting their function and triggering cell death.

Mitomycin C: This drug works by cross-linking DNA, which prevents cancer cells from dividing and growing.

Taxanes (Paclitaxel and Docetaxel): These drugs interfere with the ability of cancer cells to divide.

2. Targeted therapies: These are newer drugs that specifically target certain characteristics of cancer cells. Bevacizumab (Avastin), is an example and it inhibits the formation of new blood vessels in tumors, which slows their growth.

3. Immunotherapeutic agents: These medicines work by enhancing the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer. For example, Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) is a type of immunotherapy used in cases of advanced vulval cancer that have not responded to other treatments.

Remember, the exact medication regime is decided by the attending physician considering various factors like the stage of the disease, overall health of the patient, response to the treatment, etc. Always discuss with your healthcare provider for personalized treatment.

Prevention of Vulval cancer

Vulval cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects women’s external genitalia, particularly the vulva. Like all types of cancer, it isn’t always possible to prevent vulval cancer, but the risk could be significantly reduced by adopting a couple of preventive strategies:

1. HPV Vaccination: The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can prevent infection from certain types that are known to cause vulval cancer. This vaccine is usually given during adolescence.

Vulvar cancer

2. Safe Sex: Practicing safe sex, such as using condoms, reduces the risk of HPV, which is linked to vulval cancer.

3. Regular Screening: Regular screenings can help detect changes to the vulva’s skin and other issues at earlier stages. These include regular gynecological exams and Pap tests

4. Smoking Cessation: Avoiding the use of tobacco or finding help to quit smoking can significantly lower your risk of vulval cancer and many other types of cancer.

5. Treating pre-cancerous conditions: Conditions like vulval intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) can increase the risk of vulval cancer. Thus, identifying and treating these conditions can lower the likelihood of this cancer.

6. Healthy Lifestyle: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, balanced diet and moderate alcohol can deuce overall chance of getting vulval cancer.

Remember always to consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice in all health-related matters.

FAQ’s about Vulval cancer

Certainly, here are some commonly asked questions and answers about Vulval Cancer:

1. What is Vulval Cancer?
Vulval cancer is a rare type of cancer that affects women’s external genitalia, particularly the labia majora and labia minora. Other areas like the clitoris or the Bartholin glands may be impacted less frequently.

2. What are the symptoms of Vulval Cancer?
Symptoms may include itching, burning, skin thickening, or pain in the vulval area, a mole or lump, changes in the skin colour, a wound that doesn’t heal, or abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge.

3. What causes Vulval Cancer?
The exact cause is unknown, but factors such as age, HPV infections, smoking, a history of precancerous conditions such as vulval intraepithelial neoplasia, and immune deficiencies could increase the risk.

4. How is Vulval Cancer diagnosed?
A biopsy is often the initial step in diagnosing vulval cancer, where a small tissue sample is removed and examined under a microscope. In addition, scans like CT, MRI, or PET may be used to determine how far the cancer has progressed.

5. How is Vulval Cancer treated?
Treatment depends on the size, type, and stage of the cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health. Surgery is the most common treatment, while radiation and chemotherapy may also be employed either before surgery to reduce tumor size, or after, to kill remaining cancer cells.

6. Can Vulval Cancer be prevented?
While there’s no sure way to prevent vulval cancer, certain measures can lower the risk, such as practicing safe sex to prevent HPV infection, regular examinations of the vulval area for any changes, and quitting smoking.

These are general FAQs, and individual conditions may depend on an array of factors. Always consult with medical professionals for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Useful links

Vulval cancer, also referred to as vulvar cancer, is a type of cancer that occurs in the vulva, the external part of the female genitalia. Here are a few links to articles and journals related to vulval cancer:


Complications of Vulval cancer

Vulval cancer is a type of cancer that affects the vulva, the outer part of a woman’s genitals. While it is quite rare compared to other forms of cancer, it can still lead to several complications, including:

1. Spread to other parts of the body: Like many cancers, vulval cancer can metastasize, meaning it can spread to other parts of the body. Common sites for metastasis include the lungs, liver, or bones.

2. Lymph system complications: Vulval cancer often spreads to the nearby lymph nodes. This can affect the lymphatic system’s ability to drain fluid, leading to lymphedema, a painful and chronic swelling in the legs.

3. Sexual function: Treatment for vulval cancer often involves surgery, psychosexual problems, radiotherapy or chemotherapy which could result in changes to sexual function, fertility or body image. This could lead to emotional distress and psychological complications, like depression or anxiety.

4. Urinary and bowel complications: Advanced vulval cancer can invade surrounding organs, including the bladder and rectum, causing problems like incontinence.

5. Side effects from treatment: Treatment for vulval cancer, like surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, can cause a series of side effects including fatigue, nausea, vomiting, early menopause, and pain.

6. Recurrence: Even after successful treatment, there’s a risk that the cancer may come back, leading to additional treatments and complications.

Every person’s experience with vulval cancer will be different, and it’s important to have open, ongoing conversations with healthcare providers about possible complications and how they can be managed. Emotional support from family, friends, and professional counselors can be very helpful during this time.

Home remedies of Vulval cancer

Vulval cancer is a serious medical condition that cannot be managed by home remedies. It requires professional medical attention and care. If you or anyone is experiencing symptoms like persistent itching, changes in the color or skin of the vulva, a lump in the vulva, or bleeding from the vulva, please seek immediate medical help. These symptoms are not definitively indicative of vulval cancer, but they should be checked by a healthcare provider nonetheless. It’s crucial to remember that any cancer treatment should be overseen by oncologists and medical professionals, not managed at home.

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Last Update: January 12, 2024