Vulvar cancer begins in the vulva, the outer part of the female genital organs.
Vulvar cancers are very rare. They account for 6-7 percent of all gynecologic cancers diagnosed in the United States.
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Can you answer yes to any of these questions:
- Do you have Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)?
- Have you had cervical pre-cancer or cervical cancer?
- Do you have a condition such as HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS, that makes it hard for your body to fight off health problems?
- Are you a smoker?
- Do you have chronic vulvar itching or burning?
If I have some of these risk factors will I get vulvar cancer?
Remember, having one or more of these risk factors does not mean you will get vulvar cancer. However, if you have one or more risk factors, you should schedule regular visits with your doctor and communicate any symptoms you might be experiencing.
In 2016 the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be 5,950 new cases of vulvar cancer and 1,110 women will lose their fight against the disease.
Most vulvar cancers do not cause signs or symptoms early on.
If you do have symptoms, they may include:
- Itching, burning or bleeding on the vulva that does not go away
- Color changes on the skin of the vulva – redder or whiter than normal
- Skin changes on the vulva – including a rash or warts
- Sores, lumps or ulcers on the vulva that don’t go away
- Pain in your pelvis, especially when you urinate or have sex
Since other conditions can cause these symptoms as well, it is important to see your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.
- Get the HPV vaccine. It protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. If you are between the ages of 9 and 26, talk to your doctor about the HPV vaccine.
- Take steps to reduce your risk of getting HPV or HIV, such as avoiding sex or limiting your number of sexual partners.