Vulvar Cancer

Vulvar cancer occurs when cancer cells form in the vulva. The vulva is the external part of the female reproductive system and includes two sets of skin folds called the labia (outer lips of the vagina). Vulvar cancer most frequently affects the inner edges of the labia. 

Occurring in about 6,000 women in the United States each year, vulvar cancer is one of the more rare gynecologic cancers. About half of all vulvar cancers are found in women over age 70.

Some cases of vulvar cancer develop from abnormal cells that grow on the surface of vulvar skin over time. This condition is called vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN), and it should be treated to reduce the risk of vulvar cancer.

Our Premier Health board-certified gynecologic oncologists specialize in cancers of female reproductive organs and will guide you through every step of diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care.

Detection and Prevention

Vulvar cancer occurring in younger women is most often linked to infection with high-risk types of the human papillomavirus (HPV).

HPV (human papillomavirus) Vaccine

Premier Health recommends that females and males 9 to 45 years old receive the HPV vaccine. The vaccine is most effective when given to girls and boys ages 11 to 12. At this age, the vaccine requires two doses. After age 15, three doses are required.

If you’re under 45 and have never been vaccinated for HPV, consider getting the vaccine after discussing with your health care provider.

The HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer,  anal cancer, vaginal cancervulvar cancer,and anal and genital warts associated with certain HPV types. The vaccine may also reduce the risk of other HPV-related cancers, including mouth and throat cancers and penile cancer.

Your vulvar cancer risk may be higher if you:

  • Have vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN)
  • Have an HPV infection
  • Have a history of genital warts

Other possible risk factors include:

  • Having many sexual partners
  • Having first sexual intercourse at a young age
  • Having a history of abnormal Pap tests

Vulvar cancer often doesn’t cause early signs or symptoms. When they do occur, symptoms may be caused by vulvar cancer or by less serious conditions. Contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • A lump or growth on the vulva
  • Changes in the vulvar skin, such as color changes or growths that look like a wart or ulcer
  • Itching in the vulvar area that does not go away
  • Bleeding not related to menstruation
  • Tenderness in the vulvar area

Finding vulvar cancer early, when it’s most treatable, is your best defense.

Diagnosis

Vulvar cancer diagnosis involves a combination of investigative methods that help us understand your specific cancer and plan treatment. These may include pelvic exam, biopsy, and varied advanced imaging tools.

A biopsy is a procedure that removes a sample of cells or tissue from your vulva to check for signs of cancer.

Treatment

We’ll consider the type, size, and stage of your vulvar cancer, plus your age and overall health, to recommend one or more of the following treatment strategies:

  • Surgery to remove the primary (main) cancer tumor or other tumors
  • Chemotherapy/radiation therapy to kill or stop the growth or spread of cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy/radiation therapy to prevent or delay your cancer's return
  • Symptom management for pain or other cancer-related symptoms

Surgery is the most common vulvar cancer treatment for cancers that have not metastasized (spread), with the goal of removing your cancer without loss to sexual function. Our board-certified gynecologic oncologists remove cancer through excision, ultrasound surgical aspiration, or by removing part or all of the vulva. Nearby lymph nodes in the groin may also be removed to help reduce the spread of cancer.

For more advanced stages of cancer, surgery often is part of an effective treatment plan, along with continuously advancing medical therapies and/or radiation therapy – all highly customized to fight your specific cancer.

After vulvar cancer treatment, we’ll continue to monitor your recovery through follow-up exams and testing.

Keeping You Safe During COVID-19

You will find new safety measures in place when you schedule appointments and come to our facilities — all with the goal of keeping you safe as we care for you.

Contact Us

Our cancer team is here for you. Our cancer specialists have access to nationally recognized cancer care protocols and best practices, since Premier Health is a certified member of MD Anderson Cancer Network®, a program of MD Anderson Cancer Center. Our patients benefit from advanced local care backed by the world-renowned expertise of the nation’s leading cancer center. 

Call the Premier Health cancer hotline at (844) 316-HOPE(844) 316-4673 (4673), Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., to connect with a Premier Health cancer navigator.