Vulva Cancer

WHO IS AFFECTED?

Vulva cancer is a rare cancer. Around 1,200 cases are diagnosed in the UK each year. It is more common in older women and many cases are diagnosed in women aged 65 or over.

WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS?

The risk of developing vulval cancer increases with age. Human papilloma virus (HPV) is thought to be responsible for four out of 10 vulval cancers. Most women who have HPV infection do not go on to develop vulval cancer. Vulval intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) means there are precancerous changes in the skin of the vulva. In some women VIN develops into vulval cancer. The most common symptom of VIN is a lasting itch that does not get better or go away.

Other risk factors include a weakened immune system, genital herpes infection, smoking and some chronic skin conditions.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

Symptoms of vulval cancer can include:

  • A lasting itch, pain or soreness and thickened, raised, red, white or dark patches on the skin of the vulva.
  • Open sore or growth visible on the skin
  • Burning pain when you pass urine
  • Vaginal discharge or bleeding
  • A mole on the vulva that changes shape or colour
  • Lump or swelling in the vulva.

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, particularly if

  • They are not normal for you
  • They are persistent
  • There are repeated episodes
  • They do not go away

… be sure to visit your doctor for a check up.

Remember, most women with symptoms like these do not have cancer. Your awareness of your symptoms is the first and most important step – early diagnosis can save lives.

WHAT IS THE TREATMENT?

The main treatments used for vulval cancer are surgery, radiotherapy and sometimes chemotherapy. Your specialist may suggest a combination of treatments.