While I was fighting cervical cancer, my aunt was going through Vulval Cancer and it was the first time I’d ever heard of it to be honest. When we think of cancers we mostly assume they are inside the body. Then we think about skin cancer being down to sun exposure, but the vulva isn’t exactly a part of the body you think of getting much sun exposure now is it?
So, Vulval cancer is a rare type of cancer affecting women. Vulva is the word we use to describe the external female genitalia including:
- The lips surrounding the vagina (labia minora and labia majora)
- The clitoris
- The Bartholin’s Glands, 2 small glands each side of the vagina
Most of those affected by Vulval cancer are over the age of 65 and it is incredibly rare in women under 50 who have not yet experienced the menopause.
The symptoms of Vulval Cancer include:
- Persistent itch in the vulva
- Pain, soreness or tenderness in the vulva
- Raised and thickened patches of skin that can be red, white or dark
- A lump or wart-like growth on the vulva
- Bleeding from the vulva or bloodstained vagina discharge between periods
- An open sore in the vulva
- A burning pain when passing urine
- A mole on the vulva that changes shape or colours
We don’t know why Vulval cancer happens but there are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing it, these include:
- Increasing age
- Vulval intraepithelial neoplasia – where the cells in the vulva are abnormal and at risk of turning cancerous.
- Persistent infections with certain strains on HPV
- Skin conditions affecting the vulva such as lichen sclerosus – a condition that causes patches on the skin that can be itchy, white, smooth or crinkled and easily damaged – they may easily bleed or hurt if rubbed or scratched.
The main treatment for Vulval Cancer is surgery to remove the cancerous tissue from the Vulva and any lymph nodes containing cancerous cells. Some people may also have radiotherapy to destroy cancer cells, or chemotherapy, or even a combination of both.
It isn’t thought to be completely possible to prevent Vulval Cancer but you may be able to lower your risk by:
- Practicing safer sex – using a condom during sex can offer some protection against HPV
- Attending cervical screening appointments as smear tests can detect HPV and precancerous conditions such as VIN
- The HPV vaccine may also reduce your chances of developing vulval cancer.
If you need anymore support please contact @eveappeal or Macmillan Uk. All information has been taken from the NHS UK.