Vulvar Cancer

Incidence

Vulvar cancer is the fourth most common gynecologic cancer and comprises five percent of malignancies of the female genital tract. Within the United States, approximately 4700 cases are diagnosed each year, with nearly 1000 of those women expected to succumb to their disease. Although various histologic subtypes of vulvar cancer exist, the vast majority is comprised of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).

Signs and Symptoms

Vulvar cancers often cause signs or symptoms including one or more of the following:

  • Itching, burning, or bleeding on the vulva that does not go away
  • Color changes on the skin of the vulva, where it is redder or whiter than normal for you
  • Skin changes on the vulva, including what looks like a rash or warts
  • Sores, lumps, or ulcers on the vulva that do not go away
  • Pain in your pelvis, especially when you urinate or have sex

These symptoms can be caused by conditions that are not cancer. But if you have these symptoms, tell your doctor or nurse.

Stages

Cancer staging is a way in which doctors find out how far the cancer has spread. The right treatment for you will depend a lot on the stage of your cancer and how fast it is growing. Your treatment will also depend on your age and other medical problems.

Vulvar cancer's stage is based on:

  • Size and extension of the lesion or tumor
  • Whether there are signs that the cancer has regional lymph node metastasis or spread to other organs on diagnostic imaging tests

Vulvar cancer stages range from stage IA (lesions 2cm or less in size, confined to the vulva or perineum and with stromal invasion 1.0mm or less) to stage IVB (distant metastasis including pelvic lymph node metastasis). In general, lower stage cancers are less aggressive and require less treatment than do higher stage cancers.

Treatments for Vulvar Cancer

Most women with Vulvar cancer have surgery. Recommendations for treatment after surgery depend upon the disease stage. Some women will not need further treatment after surgery if surgery removes the cancer. But other women might need further treatment with one or both of the following:

  • Radiation therapy – Radiation kills cancer cells. Radiation can be given from a machine that is outside the body. Or a doctor can put a source of radiation directly into the vagina.
  • Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is medication used to treat and prevent recurrence of cancer by killing cancer cells. Women with vulvar cancer usually receive chemotherapy at the same time as radiation therapy to make the radiation more effective.

Source: The information on this page comes directly from articles on UpToDate medical database.