Vulva Cancer Prevention

The vulva is the area of skin that surrounds the vagina, urethra, clitoris and labia. Vulvar skin is easily recognized because the skin tissue is relatively loose and often has hair follicles. The vulva is essentially a sexual organ and is richly innervated with nerves which when stimulated provide great pleasure. The vulva also contains the opening of the female urethra which is vital for passing urine. The vulva is a very delicate organ and is prone to a few health problems. It contains many type of pain fibers and any injury can make sexual intercourse quite painful.

Other disorders of the vulva include skin lesions that may vary from cysts, moles, freckles, scars or skin discoloration. The majority of these skin lesions are painless, harmless and do not require any treatment.

The vulva is also prone to variety of infections that include thrush, warts, herpes simplex, fungus and bacterial vaginosis. Herpes simplex is sexually acquired and presents with painful vesicle which last anywhere from 1-3 weeks. Bacteral vaginosis is not considered a sexually transmitted infection but is more common in sexually active females. Bacterial vaginosis is caused by natural bacterial flora that reside in the vagina and may present with whitish vaginal discharge that has an unpleasant smell. Another very common infection of the vulva is candidiasis (thrush). At least 80% of women will develop thrush at some point in their lives. Thrush is most common in young women and during pregnancy. The typical symptoms of thrush include itching, irritation, pain, discomfort during intercourse and difficulty with urination. The discharge of a thrush infection is usually thick and “cottage cheese” like. Besides infection, other disorders that can affect the vulva include eczema, psoriasis, lichen planus, pemphigus and lichen sclerosis. Some women also develop very painful syndromes of the vulvae known as vulvodynia and vaginismus.

Sometimes, cancer of the vulva can occur. Vulvar cancer usually presents as a small lump or an ulcer that may itch or cause pain. Vulvar cancer can occur at any age but is most common in elderly females. The typical symptoms of vulvar cancer include a persistent itch; pain around the vagina, bleeding that is not associated with the menstrual cycle, discoloration of skin around the vagina and an open sore or ulcer. For some unknown reason vulvar cells become rogue and start to multiply without control and finally end up spreading to other parts of the body.

The majority of vulvar disorders can be diagnosed with a proper physical exam. A biopsy is essential if one is trying to rule out a cancer. Once a cancer is diagnosed, women undergo a variety of tests to look for spread of the cancer.

Vulvar infections require antibiotics but some skin disorders like lichen planus may require corticosteroids. The treatment of vulvar cancer depends on the stage and health of the individual. Surgery is the ideal way to remove any localized cancer.

The best way to prevent vulvar infections is to use a condom and practice good genital hygiene. Moreover, any new vulvar skin lesion or symptoms should be discussed with the doctor. Visit Clitoris.com for more information on related topics.