Vulvar cancer

Vulvar cancer is a rare cancer affecting a woman’s external genitals. That includes the vaginal lips (labia), the clitoris, and the two small Bartholin’s glands (on either side of the vagina).

 

What is vulvar cancer?

Vulvar cancer is slow growing. It mainly affects woman over 65 – it’s rare in women before the menopause.

Most vulvar cancers are squamous cell cancers. They usually develop on the inner edges of the outer vaginal lips and the inner lips. Vulvar cancer can also affect the perineum (the skin between the vulva and the anus).

Some women are diagnosed with precancerous vulvar cells during their routine screening for cervical cancer. Finding and treating precancerous cells early on can prevent vulvar cancer developing.

Causes of vulvar cancer

No one knows exactly what causes vulvar cancer. Some things increase your risk, including:
• A weakened immune system
• Cervix cell changes or cervical cancer
• Having a common sexually transmitted virus known as human papillomavirus (HPV)
• Smoking increases the risk of VIN and vulvar cancer
• Some skin conditions, including lichen sclerosus
• Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) – when you have abnormal cells in the vulva that may develop into cancer
• Your age – it’s more likely as you get older

You can reduce your risk by

Going to your cervical screening appointments as this helps detect pre-cancerous conditions

Having a vaccination to protect against getting HPV (which causes some vulval cancers)

Quitting smoking will reduce the chances of developing vulva cancers

Taking precautions against sexually transmitted infections such as HPV (using a condom)

Going to your cervical screening appointments as this helps detect pre-cancerous conditions

Having a vaccination to protect against getting HPV (which causes some vulval cancers)

Quitting smoking will reduce the chances of developing vulva cancers

Taking precautions against sexually transmitted infections such as HPV (using a condom)

Symptoms of vulval cancer

Burning sensation when you urinate

A lump or growth like a wart in the vulva

A mole on the vulva that changes colour or shape

An open sore or growth on the skin that doesn't heal

Pain or soreness around the vulva

Thickened, raised, red, white or dark patches on the surface of the vulva

All these symptoms can be caused by common conditions, such as infection. But if you’re worried, it’s a good idea to get it checked by your doctor.

Tests and diagnosis

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and examine the vulva for any unusual lumps or skin changes. They may refer you to a specialist (gynaecologist) for more tests including:

  • A biopsy where a small sample of tissue is removed for analysis
  • Blood tests
  • Colposcopy using a microscope to check for abnormal vaginal cells
  • CT or MRI scan
  • Cystocopy to look inside the bladder
  • Proctoscopy to see inside the bladder
  • X-ray

Treatments we cover

Treatments of vulva cancer include surgery (wide local excision, partial or total vulvectomy, with or without groin lymph node removal), radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

Read more

Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

Read more

Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.

Read more

Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.

Read more

Meet our doctors

Everything we do is focused on designing better care for our patients. With a network of 12 specialist oncology treatment centres across the UK, we provide the most up-to-date treatments and technology as standard.

We attract and retain some of the most experienced doctors in the country, who all have a passion for improving patient outcomes and specialise in the treatment of different types of cancer.

Meet our doctors

Search for a centre near you

Maidstone

17 Kings Hill Avenue, Kings Hill, West Malling, Kent, ME19 4UA

wm.admin@genesiscare.co.uk

Birmingham

Little Aston Hall Drive, Sutton, West Midlands, Coldfield B74 3BF

helen.roadway@genesiscare.co.uk

Nottingham

The Park Cancer Centre, Sherwood Lodge Drive, Burntstump Country Park, Notthingham, NG5 8RX

nottingham.administration@genesiscare.co.uk

Portsmouth

Portsmouth, Bartons Road, Havant, Hampshire, PO9 5NA

pao.portsmouth@genesiscare.co.uk

Guildford

BMI St Martha Oncology Centre, 46 Harvey Road, Guildford, Surrey, GU1 3XL

guildfordadministration@genesiscare.co.uk

Southampton

Southampton Centre, Chalybeate Close (off Tremona Road), Southampton, SO16 6UY

Southamptonadministration@genesiscare.co.uk

Chelmsford

Springfield Cancer Centre, Lawn Lane, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 7GU

chelmsfordreception@genesiscare.co.uk

Elstree

Unit 710, Centennial Park, Elstree, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, WD6 3SZ

elstreereception@genesiscare.co.uk

Oxford

Sandy Lane West, Peters Way, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX4 6LB

oxfordadministration@genesiscare.co.uk

Milton Keynes

Sunrise Parkway, Linford Wood East, Milton Keynes, BuckinghamShire, MK14 6LS

mk.bookingsteam@genesiscare.co.uk

Newmarket

The Oaks, Fordham Road, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 7XN

newmarket.admin@genesiscare.co.uk

Windsor

69 Alma Road, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 3HD

windsoradministration@genesiscare.co.uk