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​Vulvar Cancer

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What is Vulvar Cancer?

Vulvar cancer forms in the tissues that make up the vulva — the outer part of the female genitals.

The vulva includes the:

  • Opening of the vagina
  • Inner and outer labia (vaginal lips)
  • Clitoris

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection can increase the risk of developing vulvar cancer. Not everybody with HPV will develop vulvar cancer.

Early detection is important.

Pap smears may not detect HPV infection of the vulva, however, routine physical exams by a gynecologist can help detect any new, suspicious lesions.

Types of Vulvar Cancer

The following represent the most common types of vulvar cancer.

Squamous cell carcinoma

  • Cancer that occurs in the squamous cells that make up the vulva.
  • This is the most common type of vulvar cancer.

Adenocarcinoma

Cancer that develops in the glands that exist near the vulva.

Who's at Risk of Vulvar Cancer?

Certain factors may increase your risk of developing vulvar cancer, including:

  • Age over 50
  • Being diagnosed with a previous gynecologic cancer
  • First sexual intercourse at a young age
  • History of vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia
  • Infection with or exposure to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Infection with or exposure to HPV
  • Skin conditions involving the vulva

» Learn more about gynecologic cancer prevention and screening.

Symptoms of Vulvar Cancer

Vulvar cancer may develop as a new mass on the vulva.

The mass may not cause any symptoms or it may:

  • Be itchy
  • Be painful
  • Cause occasional vaginal spotting

A doctor may suspect vulvar cancer upon examination.

Symptoms of vulvar cancer may include:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Tenderness in the vulva
  • Abnormal and consistent itching in the vulva
  • A lump in the vulva

Testing for and Diagnosing Vulvar Cancer

Specialists at the Magee-Womens Gynecologic Cancer Program use a variety of tests to diagnose and screen for vulvar cancer, including:

Vulvar Cancer Treatment at the Magee-Womens Gynecologic Cancer Program

If you're diagnosed with vulvar cancer, your treatment will depend on the following factors:

  • Your age
  • The size of your tumor
  • The stage of your cancer
  • Other medical conditions

Your doctors and other specialists at the Magee-Womens Gynecologic Cancer Program will work with you to consider your options and determine a course of action.

Treatment Options for Vulvar Cancer

Surgery is often the recommended treatment for vulvar cancer and may include:

We may also use radiation therapy following surgery to continue to shrink the tumor.

If surgery is not possible due to the size or location of your tumor, your doctor may recommend a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Comprehensive Gynecologic Cancer Care

As a patient of the Gynecologic Cancer Program, you have access to additional treatment options and services, including: