Vulvar cancer occurs in the vulva, a part of the female reproductive system. The vulva includes the labia and clitoris and forms the skin that surrounds the vagina and urethra. The initial symptom of vulvar cancer is usually itching. The condition may develop at any age. However, older adults are at high risk for vulvar cancer. In India, vulvar cancer is the fourth most common cancer involving the female reproductive system.
Types of Vulvar Cancer
Vulvar cancer is of the following types:
- Vulvar squamous cell carcinoma: Most cancers of the vulva are squamous cell carcinoma. Cancer develops in the flat, thin cells lining the surface of the vulva.
- Vulvar melanoma: Melanocytes are the pigment-producing cells found in the vulva. Vulvar melanoma occurs in these melanocytes of the vulva.
Symptoms of Vulvar Cancer
Patients with vulvar cancer may have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Feeling pain during sexual intercourse
- Painful urination
- Vaginal bleeding not due to menstruation
- Pain and burning sensation
- Persistent itching
- Discoloration of the vaginal outer opening due to excessive pigmentation (melanism)
- Wart-like growths
- Formation of ulcers
- Thickening of skin
If the patient experiences one or more symptoms that cause a concern for vulvar cancer, they should immediately consult a doctor. At HCG Manavata Cancer Center, we have the best vulvar cancer specialists in Nashik.
Causes of Vulvar Cancer
The exact reason for vulvar cancer is unknown, but some factors increase the chances of developing vulvar cancer. They are:-
The risk of vulvar cancer increases with increase in age. In most cases, it is diagnosed at 65 years and above.
Exposure to human papillomavirus
Having a weak immune system
Mutation in DNA of the cell due to some factors
Diagnosis of Vulvar Cancer
The diagnosis of vulvar cancer is through the following methods:
- Examining the vulva: The doctor physically examines the vulva to determine any abnormalities.
- Examining the vulva using a magnifier: A magnifying glass is used to look closely into the vulva for the presence of any abnormality and signs of cancer.
- Examining pelvic area: If the above test does not suggest any abnormalities, the doctor will thoroughly examine the pelvic area to check the presence of cancerous cells.
- Imaging tests: Imaging tests like CT, MRI, and PET of the abdomen may be performed to check if vulvar cancer has spread to other organs.
- Biopsy: A tissue sample from the abnormal area is taken and sent to the laboratory for further analysis to determine the presence of any cancerous cells.
Treatment for Vulvar Cancer
There are several treatment options for vulvar cancer. The specialists at HCG Manavata Cancer Center are trained to deliver the best vulvar cancer treatment in Nashik through advanced technologies and innovative treatment approaches.
- Laser surgery: A laser beam is used to remove the lesion from the surface of cancerous cells.
- Local incision: The doctors remove the cancer tissue and some of the normal tissues around the cancerous cells.
- Vulvectomy: It is of two types. They are:-
- Radical vulvectomy: In this surgery, the whole vulva, including the clitoris, vaginal lip, and nearby lymph nodes, are removed.
- Skinning vulvectomy: Only the top layer of the skin is removed and replaced by a skin graft.
- Pelvic exenteration: In this surgery, the colon, bladder, cervix, rectum, and vagina, along with nearby lymph nodes, are removed. In this surgery, an artificial opening is also created for passing urine and stool. The procedure is usually reserved for advanced vulvar malignancy.
Radiation therapy: In radiation therapy, high-energy beams are used to destroy cancerous cells. In the case of vulvar cancer, the radiation is emitted precisely with the help of an external machine. This machine moves around the body while delivering the energy beams.
Chemotherapy: In most cases, chemotherapy is used along with radiation therapy as a part of palliative care. Chemotherapy can be given to patients through creams or lotion.
Biologic therapy: It is also a type of immunotherapy. It involves using drugs that help the body to fight against vulvar cancer. It can be applied as a topical preparation on the skin.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will treatment of vulvar cancer affect my sex life?
The side effects and their duration greatly depend upon the type of treatment. Bruising and swelling after the treatment are normal and will generally subside after a few days.
What is the recovery time required after the surgery for vulvar cancer?
The recovery time may vary for every patient and depends upon age and the type of procedure done. It requires around 6 to 8 weeks to heal the vulva.
Can I become a mother after vulvar cancer treatment?
Surgeons suggest not to conceive for the first six months after chemotherapy. The surgery for vulvar cancer, the vulvectomy, does not affect fertility.
What is the outlook on vulvar cancer?
If vulvar cancer is diagnosed in its initial stage, the 5-year survival rate is about to 86%. If diagnosed at a later stage, where it has spread to nearby lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is about 54%. If cancer spreads to distant organs, the 5-year survival rate is about 16%.
How can we prevent ourselves from getting affected by vulvar cancer?
You can decrease the chances of developing vulvar cancer by following these instructions:-
- Practicing safe sex
- HPV vaccination
- Going for a regular cervical smear test
- Quitting smoking