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What is vulvar cancer?

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Quick Answer

Vulvar cancer is a rare form of cancer that occurs in the tissues of the external female genitalia, according to the American Cancer Society. This area, which is known as the vulva, includes the outer and inner vaginal lips, clitoris, vaginal opening and glands, perineum and mons pubis.

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Full Answer

Cancer of the vulva usually affects the exterior vaginal lips, notes the American Cancer Society. This type of cancer forms progressively over time, with abnormal cells developing over a long period. These cells form what is known as vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia, or VIN.

There are generally no early signs or symptoms of vulvar cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Women who notice a growth or lump on the vulva; changes in the vulva’s skin, including wart-like growths or ulcers; tenderness; itching that does not go away in the area; or bleeding that does not come from the menstrual cycle should be evaluated by a doctor.

Cancer of the vulva is diagnosed via a physical exam and patient history. A doctor performs a visual inspection of the vulva to look for lumps or other unusual features, and then he performs a biopsy of any suspicious tissues or cells to confirm or rule out cancer. Treatment options and prognosis are based on the cancer’s stage and the patient’s general health and age, according to the American Cancer Society.

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