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What is Vulvar Cancer? Types, Symptoms, Triggers & Treatment

19 January, 2021 Sanjana Patel

Constantly folding your legs to relieve that Itch near your Vagina? Sex is getting more painful than pleasurable? Dodging trips to the toilet to avoid the burning sensation of peeing? Do Not Treat Lightly.

These signs could be pointing towards something more than just an infection, more like a cancerous medical condition. Many women even in these contemporary times are unaware of female-centric illnesses, here’s another one of many - Vulvar Cancer.

Vulvar Cancer is a type of cancer which only Females are diagnosed with, as it originates in the external periphery which surrounds the female genitalia, which is almost like a protective covering for the reproductive organ i.e., the Vagina. The name of the Cancer emerges from the genital only, the area which houses the urethra, vagina. Clitoris and the labia are known as Vulva.

In all of the “Female Cancers”, vulvar Cancer stands for 0.6% in being diagnosed among women which gives us an idea of how rarely it is detected. There is no specific age when one is diagnosed with Vulvar Cancer but it is found to be more common in women in their late 50s. Vulvar cancer which is also known as Vulval Cancer, is highly treatable particularly when the cancer is determined at the earliest.

When cancer originates in the Vulva itself it is called as Primary Vulvar Cancer. But if cancer has spread from other regions and leads to Vulvar Cancer it is known as Secondary Vulvar Cancer. Vulvar Cancer is categorized in many types as per the source of origin and other factors.

Types of Vulvar Cancer:

1. Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This Type is the most commonly diagnosed in Vulvar Cancer. Here, the cancer is found in the outermost skin of the vulva, as the symptoms develop and form gradually.

2. Verrucous Carcinoma: It grows at a snail-pace and begins in wart-like form. This cancer can be classified under Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

3. Adenocarcinoma: This affects the glandular tissue of the Vulva. More like, the cancer cells originate in the cells which line the vulvar glands.

4. Sarcoma: It is highly rare and is deadly. This Cancer could originate in the bone or muscle or the connective tissue.

5. Vulvar Melanoma It is majorly recognized by the discolouration or dark patches on the vulva. About less than 6% of the Vulvar Cancers is Melanoma, mostly diagnosed in younger women. Melanoma spreads fast all over the body a phenomenon known as Metastasis.

6. Basal Cell Carcinoma: Extremely Rare (most likely to never happen) in Vulvar Cancer, but is a very common type of skin cancer, which occurs due to sun exposure.

Symptoms of Vulvar Cancer:

The most common and known sign of any cancer is the formation of a lump, it is the same with Vulvar Cancer.

  • Painful or Painless Lump or Sore
  • Constant Itching
  • Discomfort in the Vaginal Area
  • Experiencing Pain During Sexual Intercourse
  • Throbbing and Sensitive to Touch
  • Burning and Paining while Urinating
  • Excessive or even Minor Bleeding (Not During Menstrual Cycle)
  • Vulva feels Dry
  • Discolouration or Thickening of the Skin
  • Formation of Ulcers
  • Growth of Warts or Blisters
  • The wound does not Heal (around the vaginal area)
  • Change in appearance of birthmarks or moles around the area
  • Unusual Discharge

These are few of the Symptoms of Vulvar Cancer, which differ with its type and time of generation.

Triggers of Vulvar Cancer:

1. Age - Old Women are more likely at a larger risk of developing Vulvar Cancer.

2. Smoking - Smoking is already A HUGE RED FLAG not just for Vulvar but can trigger many other chronic diseases.

3. Low Immunity - Those with a lesser immunity strength are at risk, especially if you consume medications that weaken your immune system.

4. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) - Infected with HPV, most likely to be detected with Vulvar Cancer.

5. Vulvar Intraepithelial Neoplasia (VIN) - It is a precancerous state, where a low-level of carcinoma is already present in the cells of the Vulva.

6. Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) - HIV, AIDs or as given above HPV. Hence, use protection.

7. Heredity - If any of your family members have a history of Vulvar Cancer, it is a likely possibility to have been passed down.

Treatment for Vulvar Cancer:

If you notice these symptoms, seek medical help and guidance. The Doctor will examine your Vulva. If there is a possibility of cancer, a biopsy will be performed, where tissues will be extracted and looked under for cancer cells.

Later, the Cancer can be treated via Surgeries i.e., Excision, Vulvectomy (here the vulva is removed), Removal of Sentinel Nodes, if cancer has spread one might have to go through Pelvic Exenteration. There is also Radiation and Chemotherapy available.

For treatment of ovarian cancer and small cell lung cancer - Carboplatin 450mg Injection is used.

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