What does vulvar cancer look like

Vulvar cancer / vulvar cancer

Vulvar cancer or vulvar carcinoma is a rare malignant disease of the external female genitalia, which usually affects the female genitalia. Usually starts from the squamous epithelium of the skin. In rare cases, the tumor originates from the Bartholinian glands at the entrance to the vagina or the clitoris or urethra. Basically, all regions of the pubic area of ​​women can be affected, with the majority of vulvar carcinomas being localized in the area of ​​the anterior vulva, i.e. the labia minora, the region between the clitoris and urethra (so-called anterior commissure), or the clitoris itself. Some of the carcinomas are found laterally on the large labia, at the posterior vaginal entrance or on the perineum or near the anus. The location of the tumors has changed in the last decade, as more than half of the cancers are now diagnosed in the area of ​​the anterior vulva.

The first symptoms of vulvar cancer are very unspecific - for example, only itching, burning sensation when urinating or a small skin lesion occur. Visible skin changes can represent a preliminary stage of vulvar cancer or even cancer. The diagnosis of vulvar cancer (vulvar cancer) can also be an incidental finding during the gynecological examination, especially in women who suffer from a chronic skin disease such as lichen sclerosus / kraurosis vulvae. The adjacent hollow organs such as the bladder outlet, intestinal outlet or the vagina can also be affected, in which case women often suffer from pain when urinating, having sexual intercourse or bleeding.

The prognosis for vulvar cancer depends on several factors. The size and depth of the tumor, i.e. how deep the tumor has already penetrated into the underlying tissue, are also decisive. In addition, the involvement of the lymph nodes in the groin and possibly in the small pelvis plays a major role: If the lymph nodes are affected and, above all, several large lymph nodes are present, the prognosis deteriorates very quickly and the chances of recovery decrease significantly.

A spread to other organs (lungs, liver, bones or brain) is usually only to be expected in the advanced stage or in the case of a recurring tumor, in which case vulvar cancer is incurable.

Early detection & prevention

There is no special procedure for the early detection of vulvar cancer. However, the gynecologist also examines the vulva as part of the annual gynecological screening examination (cervical examination, Pap smear). This makes it all the more important to regularly attend the recommended screening examinations.

Basically, patients should not be afraid to discuss symptoms that seem harmless, such as itching in the genital area, burning sensation when urinating or the presence of a non-healing ulcer at the vaginal entrance, or to consult a doctor for this reason.

In addition, women of all ages can regularly examine the external genital area themselves and inspect it with the help of a mirror. If changes are noticed, a doctor must be consulted at short notice.

A good way to prevent HPV-related cancer precursors and cancers is to be vaccinated against HPV!

In women who were vaccinated with one of the HPV vaccines before starting sexual intercourse, the HPV-induced vulvar tumors, which make up about 40% of vulvar cancers, can be prevented with high effectiveness (98%). Since the nonavalent vaccine also covers HPV types 31 and 33, which also play a role in approx. 10% of HPV-induced vulvar cancers, in addition to the main virus type HPV 16, the protection with the new vaccine is extended. The precursors (VIN 3) are 90% HPV-induced, so their development is almost 100% prevented.