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About Vulvar Cancer

Vulvar cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells form in the tissues of the vulva.

Signs & Symptoms

These are signs of vulvar cancer:

  • A lump or growth on the vulva that may look like a wart or sore
  • Changes in the vulvar skin including color changes
  • Itching in the vulvar area that does not go away
  • Bleeding not related to menstrual periods
  • Tenderness in the vulvar area

Many other health problems can also cause these signs. If you have any of these signs, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Learn more about vulvar cancer from the National Cancer Institute.

Image of the Vulva

Anatomy of the vulva. The vulva includes the mons pubis, clitoris, urethral opening, inner and outer lips of the vagina, vaginal opening, and perineum.
Anatomy of the vulva. The vulva includes the mons pubis, clitoris, urethral opening, inner and outer lips of the vagina, vaginal opening, and perineum.

Specialties & Treatments

The treatment or combination of treatments each patient has depends on the stage of the cancer, recommendations of the care team, and the patient’s wishes. These are the most common types of treatment for vulvar cancer:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Biologic therapy

Huntsman Cancer Institute’s Gynecologic Cancers Program provides comprehensive, compassionate, state-of-the-art care for cancers of the female reproductive organs. Our experts treat and diagnose all types of these cancers and conditions.

Learn more about types of cancer treatments.

Find a Vulvar Cancer Doctor

Causes & Risk Factors

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean you are sure to get cancer. It means your chances are higher than the average person’s. Talk with your doctor to learn more about your cancer risk.

These are risk factors for vulvar cancer:

  • A personal history of genital warts
  • Having multiple sexual partners
  • A history of abnormal pap tests
  • Having first sexual intercourse at a young age
  • Being infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV) or having vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia

Learn more about ways to prevent cancer and cancer screenings.

Diagnosis & Stages

Diagnosis of Vulvar Cancer

These are used to diagnose vulvar cancer:

  • Physical exam and history: A health care provider examines your body for signs of disease. Your personal health habits, past illnesses, and symptoms help guide the exam.
  • Biopsy: The health care provider removes cell or tissue samples so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.

Stages of Vulvar Cancer

Stages of cancer show whether cancer has spread within or around the {} or to other parts of the body. Cancer spreads in the body in three ways: through tissue, the lymph system, or the blood.

These are the stages used for vulvar cancer:

  • Stage 1 (1A,1B): Cancer has formed in the vulva or in the area between the rectum and vagina, also called the perineum.
  • Stage 2: Cancer has spread to organs close by, but not to lymph nodes.
  • Stage 3 (3A, 3B, 3C): Cancer has spread to lymph nodes close by.
  • Stage 4 (4A, 4B): Cancer has spread to the upper urethra, upper vagina, the bladder, rectum, pelvic bones, or organs away from the vulva such as the lungs or liver.

When cancer spreads from where it started to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. These metastatic cancer cells are the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if vulvar cancer spreads to the bone, the cancer cells in the bone are actually vulvar cancer cells. The disease is metastatic vulvar cancer, not bone cancer.

Learn more about the stages of vulvar cancer from the National Cancer Institute.

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