When cancer starts in the vulva, it is called vulvar cancer. Treatment is most effective when vulvar cancer is found early. Vulvar cancer is extremely rare, although all women are at risk, and it affects approximately 3,500 patients each year in the United States.
The signs and symptoms of vulvar cancer can include the following:
- Itching, burning or bleeding on the vulva
- Color changes on the skin of the vulva, such as being whiter or redder than normal for you
- Skin changes in the vulva, such as a rash or warts
- Sores, new lumps or ulcers on the vulva that do not go away
- Pain in your pelvis
There is no way to know who will be diagnosed with vulvar cancer, however there are factors that increase the risk. These include:
- A history of abnormal Pap tests
- HIV or another condition that makes it hard for your body to fight off health problems
- Being age 50 or older
- Having chronic vulvar itching or burning
- A history of smoking
The risk of vulvar cancer can be lowered by getting the HPV vaccine as recommended, limiting the number of sexual partners and not smoking.