Vulvar cancer is a type of female genital cancer that affects the external genitalia. Approximately, three per cent of all gynaecological cancers are vulvar cancer.The cancer easily spreads to nearby body parts such as the bladder, vagina and anus as vulva has rich supply of blood and lymphatic vessels. It is most often diagnosed in older women (more than 70 years) though it can affect younger women (35-45 years) as well. Most vulvar cancers start in the labia majora and just about 1 in 10 cases starts in the clitoris. As the cancer in early stages has little symptoms, many cases are often get detected only in the later stages.
Symptoms that may occur with progression include:
- Lump or growth in vulvar area: a lump or growth in the vulvar area may be itchy and painful. Lump may become an ulcerated sore, which does not heal. The ulcer may become bigger with time and may appear white, red or pink.
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge from the vagina such as bleeding or spotting in between your regular menstrual periods or contact bleeding (bleeding after sexual intercourse, after douching).
- Lump in the groin: these are the enlarged lymph glands.
- Problems with urine: such as increased frequency of urination (need to urinate more frequently than usual), dysuria or pain while urinating may indicate that the cancer has spread to the bladder. Some women may develop problems with bowel motions as the cancer progresses and involves the rectum.
- Bone pain and fracture: if the cancer spreads through the body to involve the bones, you may have bone pain and/or fracture. This is a fairly late symptom of vulvar cervix.
These are some symptoms that may be present in a woman with vulvar cancer. Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have vulvar cancer. Similar symptoms can be caused by many other gynaecological problems. Your doctor will examine you and recommend tests (if needed) to diagnose the cause of the symptoms.