How to Say It: Vull-varr Cancer
by Amy Scholten, MPH
Vulvar cancer is cancer that starts on the outer female genitals. The vulva includes the labia, clitoris, and vaginal opening. There are different types of vulvar cancer. They are:
Cancer happens when cells divide without control or order. These cells grow together to form a tumor. They can invade and damage nearby tissues. They can also spread to other parts of the body.
It is not clear what causes changes in the cells. It is likely a combination of genes and environment.
The risk of this condition increases with age. It is most common in women 70 to 80 years old.
Other things that raise the risk are:
Symptoms may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This will include an exam of the uterus, ovaries, cervix, and vagina.
Tests may include:
Imaging tests such as x-rays, a CT scan, an MRI may be done. They will look for spreading of the tumor.
The exam and test results are used for staging. Staging outlines how far and fast cancer has spread.
The goal is to get rid of the cancer. Treatment depends on the site, type, and stage of the cancer. A combination of treatments may be used.
Options may be:
Vulvar cancer cannot always be prevented. The risk may be reduced by:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Canadian Cancer Society
Tan A, Bieber AK, et al. Diagnosis and management of vulvar cancer: A review. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019;81(6):1387-1396.
Vaginal and vulvar cancers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/vagvulv. Accessed March 17, 2021.
Vulvar cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/vulvar-cancer.html. Accessed March 17, 2021.
Vulvar cancer. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/vulvar-cancer. Accessed March 17, 2021.
Vulvar cancer treatment. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/vulvar/patient/vulvar-treatment-pdq. Accessed March 17, 2021.
Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/vulvar-intraepithelial-neoplasia-vin. Accessed March 17, 2021.
Vulvar squamous cell carcinoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/vulvar-squamous-cell-carcinoma-vscc. Accessed March 17, 2021.
What is vulvar cancer? Canadian Cancer Society website. Available at:
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Accessed March 17, 2021.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Last updated: 3/17/2021