Vulvar cancer develops on the vulva, the external flesh that surrounds the urethra, vagina, clitoris, and labia. Approximately 4,800 cases of vulvar cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year.
Types of Vulvar Cancer
There are several varieties of vulvar cancer:
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Arises in the smooth tissue that lines the vulva
- Occurs in the fluid-producing cells in the vulvar lining
- Develops in the pigment-producing cells in vulvar skin
- Arises in the soft tissue of the vulva
- Basal cell carcinoma
- Typically is caused by sun exposure; this is rare in vulvar cancer
Symptoms and Diagnosis
A common symptom of vulvar cancer is an itchy lump or sore on the vulva. Other symptoms include:
- Pain and tenderness
- Irregular bleeding
- Skin changes, such as color changes or thickening
To diagnose vulvar cancer, your doctor may perform a pelvic exam, order blood work, or collect a tissue sample to be evaluated by a pathologist.
Treatment for vulvar cancer depends on its characteristics and stage, your overall health, and your preferences and goals. Options include:
Surgery is usually required to remove the cancer and a small amount of the surrounding tissue. Using the latest advancements in surgical technologies and tools, UT Southwestern offers a growing number of minimally invasive and laparoscopic techniques for surgically treating vulvar cancer in appropriate patients. Types of surgeries for vulvar cancer include laser surgery, excision, vulvectomy, and pelvic exenteration.
Learn more about surgery for gynecologic cancers.
May be administered in conjunction with chemotherapy to reduce the size of the cancer before surgery. The most common type of radiation treatment is called external-beam radiation therapy, which uses high-energy X-rays to deliver radiation that destroys cancer cells while sparing the surrounding healthy tissues; no radioactive sources are placed inside the patient’s body with this therapy.
Learn more about radiation therapy for gynecologic cancers.
May be given with radiation therapy to reduce the size of the cancer before surgery.
Learn more about medical treatments for gynecologic cancers.
Women with vulvar cancer may have concerns about if and how these treatments may affect their sexual function and fertility. Our experts will discuss all options with you before treatment begins, and you should not be afraid to ask questions.
The compassionate gynecologic cancer team at UT Southwestern Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center delivers skilled, comprehensive care to women with vulvar cancer. Patients also are encouraged to take advantage of the many patient support services we offer.
Meet Our Team
Our team of endometrial cancer experts includes:
See all members of our gynecologic cancer team.
Many patients qualify to participate in the gynecologic cancer-related clinical trials conducted at UT Southwestern to gain access to new medical treatments and to further research of the disease.
Learn about gynecologic cancer clinical trials offered at UT Southwestern.
Request an Appointment
To schedule an appointment with a vulvar cancer specialist, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.