Vulvar Cancer: When to seek medical assistance
Prognosis of patients with vulvar cancer is generally good when the treatment is started in the early stages of the disease. The overall five-year survival rate is 70 percent, which is about 98% in stage I of the disease and decreases to 31% in women with metastatic cancer. In most women, the cancer starts as vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) and gradually progresses to carcinoma. According to recent evidence, an increase in vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) and VIN-related invasive vulvar cancer has been observed. The symptoms of VIN and early stages of cancer are non-specific. Therefore, many patients tend to ignore their symptoms. By the time the symptoms are evident, the cancer will have progressed beyond the initial stages.
Consult your doctor if you have any/all of the following symptoms suggestive of some type of significant medical problem:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding i.e. bleeding not related to your menstruation (periods).
- Lump or growth in vulvar area.
- Itching or a pain in vulvar area that persists for more than a few days.
- Ulcer or sore that does not heal and persists.
- Lump in the groin; these are the enlarged lymph glands.
These are some symptoms suggestive of vulvar cancer; they do not definitely mean that you have vulvar cancer. A doctor can evaluate and diagnose the cause of your symptoms and treat them accordingly.
Who to Consult
If you have any bothersome gynecological symptoms, you may consult the following health professionals:
- Family physicians.
- Nurse practitioners.
- Assistants of physicians.
If you are diagnosed with vulvar cancer, the doctors who can manage your treatment include:
- Gynecologic oncologists.
- Radiation oncologists.
- Medical oncologists.
When to consult a doctor if you have been treated for vulvar cancer
If you are a vulvar cancer survivor, regular follow-up examinations are recommended after your treatment is completed. This helps in the earlier diagnosis of recurrence (in case the cancer comes back). Regular follow-up care also gives you a chance to discuss any other changes in health. In between follow-up appointments, consult your doctor if you have:
- Vaginal discharge, which may be purulent, foul smelling, blood stained etc.
- Dysuria or pain while urinating.
- Unusual vaginal bleeding.
As recurrence of vulvar cancer can occur even years after the treatment of primary cancer, long-term follow-up for cancer survivors is recommended.
Source: Expert Content Jan 11, 2012
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