Vulvar Cancer Symptoms

Vulvar cancer symptoms usually occur in elderly females. The vulva is the area of skin that surrounds the vagina, urethra, clitoris and labia. Sometimes, cancer can occur in the vulvar area. Vulvar cancer photos are rarely obtained by physicians primarily because most individuals are shy to expose this part of the body. Vulvar cancer pictures usually reveal 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. The cause of vulvar cancer remains a mystery. For unknown reason, cells in this part of the body become rogue and start to multiply without control and finally end up spreading to other parts of the body.

Even though the cause of vulvar cancer is unknown, some risk factors have been identified. This includes advanced age and prior exposure to the human papilloma virus (HPV). Many sexually active women are exposed to this virus but in most women, the HPV disappears. Smoking is another risk factor that increases the risk of vulvar cancer. There is some evidence that being infected with the HIV makes one more susceptible to this cancer. Some women develop a condition known as lichen sclerosis that causes the skin to become dry/itchy and increase risk of vulvar cancer.

Vulvar cancer is easily diagnosed with a biopsy. Once a cancer is diagnosed, women undergo a variety of tests to look for spread of the cancer. Stage 1 vulvar cancer remains confined to the vulva but stage 3 or 4 vulvar cancer means that the cancer has spread more extensively.

Vulvar cancer treatment depends on the stage and health of the individual. Surgery is the ideal way to remove any localized cancer. Sometimes part or the entire vulvar skin is removed. If the cancer has spread, more extensive surgery may be required that may mean removal of the bladder, uterus, cervix, ovaries, color or bladder. When extensive surgery is done, reconstruction is always required.

In women who are not candidates for surgery, radiation therapy may be used to kill the cancer cells. This may be combined with chemotherapy to shrink the tumor. After any vulvar cancer treatment, close follow up is required to ensure that the cancer has not returned. In general, most patients need to be seen at least twice a year for 5 years. Living with vulvar cancer is a challenge. Doctors recommend that individuals with this cancer join some type of cancer support group and discuss their feelings with either a nurse, doctor, social worker or a counselor.
One can prevent vulvar cancer by taking preventive steps like limiting the number of sexual partners, using a condom when having sex and considering getting the HPV vaccine as a teenager. Even though pelvic exams are uncomfortable, Clitoris.com recommends that all women undergo regular examination to identify vulvar cancer symptoms and signs.