Dr. Ajay Mehta, Senior Consultant & Head of Surgical Oncology, HCG NCHRI Cancer Center Nagpur
Cancer of reproductive organs and genitals in both men and women is usually overlooked in many instances.
Despite having a general understanding of various gynaecological cancers, many people are utterly unaware of the signs and the potential harm it poses to the intimate region.
Vulvar carcinoma is one such possibly rare type of cancer. Cancers of the vagina and vulva are uncommon but usually treatable if detected and treated early.
Vulvar cancer is an uncommon kind of cancer. It develops in a woman’s exterior genitals, known as the vulva. The cancer normally spreads slowly over time.
The vulva, or the outer region of the female genitals, is affected by this cancer. Vulvar cancer is most commonly found on the vaginal outer lips.
Primary vulvar cancer is cancer that begins in the vulva. Secondary vulvar cancer occurs when cancer spreads from another part of the body to the vulva.
Precancerous lesions usually appear first and are identified as abnormal cell development in the skin’s outermost layer.
Although this is predominately common in postmenopausal women, due to a sudden transformation in lifestyle and unhealthy habits such as smoking, women of all ages should be cautious of vulvar cancer.
Signs and symptoms
Vulvar cancer doesn’t show any symptoms at first. Over a period of time your body shows symptoms such as a lump in the vulva, vulvar itching or tenderness, bleeding that is not your period and changes in the vulvar skin, such as the colour changes or growth that looks like a wart or ulcer.
Symptoms of various types of vulvar cancer vary, and in other cases, no symptoms exist.
You are at a greater risk if you have had Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection or a history of genital warts.
Women who have Vulvar Intraepithelial Neoplasia (VIN), a condition in which vulvar skin cells transform into cancer cells, have a considerably increased risk of acquiring vulvar cancer.
Lichen Sclerosus is a disorder that causes the skin to thicken and become irritating, which may increase the risk of vulvar cancer somewhat.
Women who smoke frequently are three to six times more likely to get vulvar cancer. If the chronic smoker also has an HPV infection, the risk rises much higher.
Diagnosis of vulvar cancer
Doctors diagnose vulvar cancer based on how large it is or where it is and whether it has spread to nearby lymph nodes. This is determined during surgery to remove the cancer. These stages range from stage I to stage IV.
Stage 0 – The cancer is only visible on the surface of the skin.
Stages 1 and 2 – The cancer is restricted to the vulva and can grow to a size of 2 cm.
Stage 3 – The disease has progressed to neighbouring tissue such as the anus or vagina, as well as the lymph nodes.
Stage 4 – The cancer may extend to the bowels, bladder, or urethra, the channel through which urine departs the body, after spreading to the lymph nodes on both sides of the Groyne.