Cancer of the Vulva (Vulvar Cancer)
The vulva is the outer part of the female genitals and includes the vestibule or opening of the vagina (birth canal), the labia majora (outer lips), the labia minora (inner lips), the Bartholin glands and the clitoris.
Vulvar cancers are skin-related cancers. They most often develop in the skin around the inner edges of the labia majora or the labia minora, but they can also develop around the clitoris, the Bartholin glands and the sensitive skin between the vagina and anus.
Squamous Cell Carcinomas
Most cancers of the vulva are squamous cell carcinomas. This type of cancer begins in squamous cells, the flat cells in the top layer of skin called the epidermis.
Cancer that begins in gland cells is called adenocarcinoma. About 8 of every 100 vulvar cancers are adenocarcinomas. Vulvar adenocarcinomas most often start in cells of the Bartholin glands, which are found just inside the opening of the vagina.
- Melanoma - Around 5 of every 100 melanomas in women occur on the vulva, usually on the labia minora and clitoris.
- Sarcoma - Less than 2 of every 100 vulvar cancers are sarcomas.
- Basal cell carcinoma - Basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer, is more often found on sun-exposed areas of the skin. It occurs very rarely on the vulva.
Risk factors for all types of vulvar cancers include: smoking, HPV infections, multiple sexual partners, cervical cancer, immune deficiency, and the presence of chronic vaginal and/or vulvar irritation.
If you experience any of the symptoms below, be sure to see your doctor. Regular gynecological examinations are the best way to diagnose this cancer.
- Vulvar itching
- Vaginal discharge
- Painful urination
Download the following document for more detailed information. If you are unable to open the PDF file you may need to Download Adobe Reader at http://get.adobe.com/reader .Everyone's Guide for Cancer Therapy: Vulva (PDF, 62k)