Related to a woman’s external genitals, we know that there is a rare type of cancer called vulva cancer. The cancer cells grow slowly (for several years) before we can start to see the symptoms. This article will discuss what is vulvar cancer, the types of cancer and how to treat it.
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What Is Vulvar Cancer?
Vulvar cancer is cancer formed in a woman’s vulva, including labia minora, labia majora, clitoris, and the Bartholin’s glands. Vulvar cancer causes are unclear, but before the first stage, precancerous cells grow on the skin of the vulva. This precancerous disease is called dysplasia or VIN (Vulvar Intraepithelial Neoplasia).
Not all VIN turn into cancer, but there is a high risk of it, so it is better to treat it as early as possible. If you have had an HPV (human papillomavirus) infection before, you are at a greater risk. Vulvar cancer can infect a woman with the condition of weakened immune systems, such as HIV.
So, if you feel some symptoms, such as vulva itching persistently, a lump on the vulva, bleeding but not in a period, or any of strange changes in the vulvar skin, please contact the doctor.
A woman can feel different symptoms depending on the stage of cancer. Stage 4 vulvar cancer symptoms include painful sexual intercourse, painful urination, rawness, sensitivity, and bleeding.
5 Types of Vulvar Cancer
There are five types of vulvar cancer, categorized based on the first tissue which cancer infects. Here they are:
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma – This type of cancer starts and found in the labia. This is the most popular vulvar cancer, which infects 90% of the patients. Squamous Cell Carcinoma usually has the precancerous condition, and if it is diagnosed earlier, an invasive vulvar cancer will not happen.
- Melanoma – 2% to 4% vulvar cancer patients start to grow the disease by having melanomas in the labia minora or clitoris. Melanomas can be found on other parts of the skin. If a woman has melanomas, although they are not in the vulva, she is exposed to a greater risk of developing vulvar cancer.
- Adenocarcinoma – An only a small percentage of vulvar cancer patients develop the disease from the Bartholin’s glands. However, this type of vulvar cancer is as dangerous as the others.
- Sarcoma – This is a tumor attacking the connective tissue of the skin, which can develop into vulvar cancer.
- Verrucous Carcinoma – This is actually a slow-growing version of Squamous Cell Carcinoma. It looks like a wart, so you should visit the doctor when you see it around the labia.
Consult to a Doctor About Pelvic Exams
Those are some important information about vulvar cancer and the types of invasive disease. You can consult the doctor to ask how often you need to undergo pelvic exams.
The exams will let your doctor check and explain about the health of your reproductive organs, and decide any vulvar cancer treatment if it is needed.
Understanding what is vulvar cancer will help you to understand what actions to take if any symptoms occur. If the doctor can diagnose it as early as possible, the curable rate will be higher.