Vulval cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the tissues of the vulva grow in an uncontrolled way. About 300 Australian women are diagnosed with vulval cancer each year. It most commonly affects women who have gone through menopause, however vulval cancer can also occur in younger women.

Cancer of the vulva, like other cancers, is not infectious and cannot be passed on to other people. An inherited faulty gene does not cause it, and so other members of your family are not likely to be at risk of developing it.

Known risk factors

  • precancerous conditions
  • skin conditions
  • smoking.

Symptoms

  • a lump on the vulva
  • itching of the vulva that does not go away
  • changes in the skin of the vulva, including colour changes or growths that look like a wart or ulcer
  • bleeding that is not related to menstruation
  • tenderness in the vulval area.

Diagnosis & treatment

Treatment includes surgical removal of the involved vulval skin sometimes requiring plastic surgery to cover the skin defects. Vulval cancer may spread to the lymph nodes in the groin and therefore they need surgical exploration as well. Selected patients require radiotherapy to the vulva, the groin or both. Survival of vulval cancer is generally good, but the side effects from treatment are significant (wound break down, lymphoedema).

Detailed information on diagnosis and treatment of vulval cancer can be found at the Cancer Australia website.

Research

Current research focuses on new techniques with which we aim to diagnose lymphoedema earlier. The earlier lymphoedema is diagnosed, the more successful treatment will be.

Source: Cancer Australia 2017