Vulvar cancer is one of the lesser known and less common forms of cancer that can affect women. The area defined as the vulva includes the labia majora, labia minora, mons pubis, clitoris, perineum, and entryway of the vagina. The vast majority of vulvar cancer cases occur in the labia, with over 50% of cases occurring in the labia majora. Cancer cases that involve the clitoris and perineum account 20% of all cases. Vulvar cancer can occur at more than one site within this region, accounting for 5% of all cases.
What Types Of Vulvar Cancer Are There?
The majority of vulvar cancer cases are squamous cell carcinomas. This type of cancer grows slowly and typically begins in a pre-cancerous state as vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN). Classified under squamous cell carcinomas are two subtypes of this cancer.
The first results from exposure to the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and can occur in women of all ages. The other isn’t the result of HPV and primarily occurs in older women, often accompanied by changes in the vulvar skin such as lichen sclerosus.
Squamous cell carcinomas are present in 95% of all vulvar cancers, with the remaining 5% being Melanoma. As a cancer that typically results from exposure to the sun, it is uncommon in the vulva region.
There are two rarer forms of vulvar cancer that only account for less than 2% of all cases. These are sarcomas and adenocarcinomas, the latter forming in the Bartholin’s glands near the vaginal opening.
Who Is At Risk Of Contracting Vulvar Cancer?
Those primarily at risk of contracting vulvar cancer are postmenopausal women, with most cases involving patients between the ages of 70-79 years old. The past ten years have seen a worrying increase in vulvar cancer in younger women as the result of HPV (Human Papillomavirus). Cases involving HPV are typically found in women 45 and under. These two forms of vulvar cancer are distinct, demonstrating different behaviors and response to treatment.
What Symptoms Indicate The Presence Of Vulvar Cancer?
Long-term changes in the skin of the vulva are commonly associated with vulvar cancer in postmenopausal women. The following symptoms are likely to be present:
- Vulvar skin that is thinning or thickening
- White patches that are painful and itchy
How Our Clinic Can Help With Vulvar Cancer
Since it typically passes through a precancerous stage, vulvar cancer can be easy to find and treat. This is complicated by a trend in older women to avoid attending preventative gynecological health care visits. By making our clinic a part of your regular preventative healthcare, you’ll give yourself the best chance of catching it early while it’s still easy to treat.
Our clinic is proud to be dedicated to women’s health and is staffed by experts in all areas of this field. If you’re concerned, you have symptoms associated with vulvar cancer. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment for a screening. You can also reach out to us to schedule your next regular check-up as part of your ongoing health care.