Vulvar Cancer

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Vulvar cancer is cancer of the vulva (the external female genital organs, including the clitoris, vaginal lips, and the opening to the vagina). Vulvar cancer most often affects the outer vaginal lips. Less often, cancer affects the inner vaginal lips, clitoris, or vaginal glands.

Vulvar cancer usually forms slowly over a number of years. Abnormal cells can grow on the surface of the vulvar skin for a long time. This condition is called vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN). Because it is possible for VIN to become vulvar cancer, it is very important to get treatment.


Having vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia or HPV infection can affect the risk of vulvar cancer.


Risk factors for vulvar cancer include the following:

  • Having vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN)
  • Having human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Having a history of genital warts
  • Having many sexual partners
  • Having first sexual intercourse at a young age
  • Having a history of abnormal Pap tests (Pap smears)


Possible symptoms include:

  • A lump or growth on the vulva
  • Changes in the vulvar skin, such as color changes or growths that look like a wart or ulcer
  • Itching in the vulvar area, that does not go away
  • Bleeding not related to menstruation (periods)
  • Tenderness in the vulvar area


The following tests and procedures may be used:

  • Physical exam and history
  • Biopsy


Four types of standard treatment are used:

  • Surgery
    • Laser Surgery
    • Wide local excision
    • Radical local excision
    • Ultrasound surgical aspiration (USA)
    • Vulvectomy
      • Skinning vulvectomy
      • Modified radical vulvectomy
      • Radical vulvectomy
      • Pelvic exenteration
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Biologic Therapy


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.