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Cancer Of The Vulva

Overview

Vulvar cancer is a rare type of cancer. It forms in a woman's external genitals, called the vulva. The cancer usually develops slowly over several years. First, precancerous cells grow on vulvar skin. This is called vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN), or dysplasia. Not all VIN cases turn into cancer, but it is best to treat it early. Melanoma is the second most common type of vulvar cancer, usually found in the labia minora or clitoris. Other types of vulvar cancer include:

Adenocarcinoma
Paget's disease
Sarcomas
Verrucous carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma


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Causes

Human papilloma virus infection appears to have an important role in stimulating Vulvar Cancer growth. Vulvar cancers associated with HPV infection seem to have certain distinctive features. They are often found along with several other areas of vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN). The women with these cancers tend to be younger and are often smokers. DNA tests from vulvar cancers in older women rarely show HPV infection, but often show mutations of the p53 tumor suppressor gene. The p53 gene is important in preventing cells from becoming cancerous. When this gene has undergone mutation, it is easier for cancer to develop. Because vulvar melanomas and adenocarcinomas are so rare, much less is known about how they develop.


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Signs & Symptoms

The most common symptoms of vulvar cancer may include:

  • constant itching
  • changes in the color and the way the vulva looks
  • bleeding or discharge not related to menstruation
  • severe burning/itching or pain
  • skin of the vulva looks white and feels rough
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Prevention

The cause of vulvar cancer is not known at this time, however, certain risk factors are suspected as contributors to the development of the disease. Suggestions for prevention include:

  • Delaying the onset of sexual activity.
  • Using condoms.
  • Not smoking.
  • Regular physical checkups.
  • Routine Pap tests and pelvic examinations.
  • Routinely check entire body for irregular growth of moles.

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Treatments
Surgery Modern Medicine
  • Laser surgery - use of a powerful beam of light, which can be directed to specific parts of the body without making a large incision, to destroy abnormal cells.
  • Excision - the cancer cells and a margin of normal appearing skin around the cancer is removed.
  • Vulvectomy - surgical removal of part of all of the tissues of the vulvar
  • Radiation therapy and Chemotherapy are also used for treatment.

 

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