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Vulva cancer also known as labia cancer is cancer in the inner or outer labia.
Cancer can also occur in other parts of the vulva (link to drawing vulva) but is less common.
It originates in the epidermis (the layer of skin visible on the outside), the glandular tubes of the vulva or from the pigment cells of the skin.
The cells of the epidermis are called squamous cells, so when cancer develops there you call it a squamous carcinoma. This form of vulvar cancer is the most common (70%).
It is most common in women who are over the age of 70, but it can certainly occur at a younger age as well.
Causes vulvar cancer:
Women who have Lichen Sclerosus (LS) are more likely to develop vulvar cancer (about 5%)
As a precursor to vulvar cancer, you then usually develop a dVIN first
The dVIN you can get from LS is not HPV related.
A vulvar HSIL also a pre-stage of vulvar cancer, this form is related to HPV and is also more common in young women. See also HPV
vulv cancer can metastasize, usually to the lymph nodes in the groin. If vulv cancer has been around longer, it can also metastasize to the lymph nodes in the pelvis or abdomen. In rare cases, there are also metastases to other organs such as liver or lungs.
What symptoms do you have?
Itching or pain at the vulva
What can you see?
Wounds that do not disappear after treatment
Sometimes some bloody discharge
Is there more research needed?
Yes, more tests are needed. If you have the above symptoms, you should always see a doctor who will refer you to a gynecologist, dermatologist or vulva clinic (where gynecologist and dermatologist work together).
The diagnosis will always be made through a biopsy (taking a small piece of tissue, which will be examined).
How to get rid of it?
There are several treatments available for cancer of the labia, such as a There are several treatments available for cancer of the labia:
Or a combination of the above
The first option of treatment is usually surgery
After surgery, the doctor will usually suggest irradiating the vulva or groin
It sometimes happens that the tumor is very large. Or that the tumor has grown into the anus or urethra. In that case, surgery may be too invasive and the doctor may suggest chemoradiation.
With chemoradiation, you get 2 treatments at once:
It is incredibly important for women to know their own vulva.
This is why it is so important for women to periodically check out their vulva for themselves.
By doing this, you can notice changes, and the earlier you get treated for vulva abnormalities, the less likely you are to develop complications including vulvar cancer