Persistent itching, burning, or bleeding of the vulva
Changes in the color of the skin of the vulva
Skin changes, such as a rash, mole, or warts
Sores, scales, lumps, or ulcers on the vulva
Pelvic pain, especially during urination or sex
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. This will include a pelvic exam of your uterus, ovaries, cervix, and vagina. Your doctor may order blood tests.
biopsy, removal of a piece of suspicious tissue for testing, will be done. The sample will confirm a cancer diagnosis. A
may also be done to look for signs of cancer in nearby tissue.
Imaging studies such as
CT scan, may be done to look for spreading of the tumor.
The physical exam combined with all of your test results will help to determine the stage of cancer you have. Staging is used to guide your treatment plan. Like other cancers, vulvar cancer is staged from 0-IV (0-4):
Stage 0 is a cancer only on the surface of the skin
Stage I is in the vulva and tissue between the rectum and vagina
Stage II is growth that has spread to anal tissue or the vagina
Stage III is growth that has spread to nearby tissue and is present in the lymph nodes
Stage IV is increased growth to nearby tissue and lymph nodes, with spreading to other areas of the body
The biopsy will also determine the grade and type of your tumor. These can predict how aggressive a tumor may be and help to determine the treatment.
You and your doctor will determine which treatment or combinations of treatments work best for you, depending on the location, type, stage and grade of your tumor. Cancer treatment often includes a combination of the following treatments:
Surgery involves removing as much of the cancer as possible. Types of surgery to treat vulvar cancer include:
—The cancer and surrounding tissue are removed to make sure all cancer cells are removed. The procedure is called a simple partial vulvectomy.
Pelvic exenteration—A vulvectomy is done along with removal of the pelvic lymph nodes. The lower colon, rectum, bladder, uterus, cervix, and vagina may also be removed depending on how far the cancer has spread.
Inguinal lymph node dissection—Lymph nodes in the groin are removed. May be done if cancer is found in the lymph nodes.
Radiation therapy is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.
radiation directs radiation at the tumor from a source outside the body. It is sometimes used along with chemotherapy to treat more advanced cancers. It may be used to shrink tumors before surgery or kill any remaining cancer cells after surgery.
is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be given in many forms, including pill, injection, or via a catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells, but also some healthy cells.
To help reduce your chance of vulvar cancer:
Take steps to prevent HPV infection. This may include practicing safe sex and talking to your doctor about the HPV vaccine.
If you smoke or use tobacco products, talk to your doctor about ways to quit.
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