General and more comprehensive text about cancer diseases, their behavior, causes and treatment can be found here.
Vulvar cancer is in fact a designation for a whole group of malignant diseases that develop from the female outer genital, i.e. from tissues located around the labia and vaginal opening. Vaginal cancer is relatively rare and it constitutes only about 5% of all gynecological cancers. The cancers most commonly grow from cells of the local skin cover. Occasionally, a melanoma or other tumors may occur in this location.
The causes of this type of cancer are not known. High age is an assumed risk factor as well as HPV (human papillomavirus) infection.
The tumor usually looks like a lump or ulcerated tissue located around the vaginal opening. It may cause no symptoms, but it often itches, burns and hurts. Sometimes, the lesion bleeds. The woman may suffer from pain during urination and during sexual intercourse.
Any vulvar lesion should be examined by a skilled gynecologist. The doctor can take a small sample of the tissue for histological examination. Local extent of an advanced tumor and its possible metastatic spread can be evaluated by imaging methods such as the ultrasound and computed tomography.
The treatment is mainly surgical. Early stages of the tumor may be removed without any need of further treatment, or without further complications. Spread disease with distant metastases may be treated by chemotherapy, but the prognosis is significantly worse.