Who Gets Skin Cancer And Why
Sun exposure is the biggest cause of skin cancer. But it doesn’t explain skin cancers that develop on skin not ordinarily exposed to sunlight. Exposure to environmental hazards, radiation treatment, and even heredity may play a role. Although anyone can get skin cancer, the risk is greatest for people who have:
- Fair skin or light-colored eyes
- An abundance of large and irregularly-shaped moles
- A family history of skin cancer
- A history of excessive sun exposure or blistering sunburns
- Lived at high altitudes or with year-round sunshine
- Received radiation treatments
How To Recognize Vulva Cancer Symptoms
This article was medically reviewed by Lacy Windham, MD. Dr. Windham is a board certified Obstetrician & Gynecologist in Tennessee. She attended medical school at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis and completed her residency at the Eastern Virginia Medical School in 2010, where she was awarded the Most Outstanding Resident in Maternal Fetal Medicine, Most Outstanding Resident in Oncology, and Most Outstanding Resident Overall.There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 352,310 times.
Although many people are at risk for cancer of the vulva, this disease is very rare. Despite the fact that few people will actually ever develop vulvar cancer, its advisable to know and recognize the signs of it. If you find any symptoms, your doctor will need to confirm a diagnosis of vulvar cancer. Treatment for the disease is often successful, depending on its severity.
Can Vulval Cancer Be Prevented
It’s not thought to be possible to prevent vulval cancer completely, but you may be able to reduce your risk by:
- practising;safer sex; using a condom during sex can offer some protection against HPV
- attending;cervical screening;appointments;;cervical screening can detect HPV and precancerous conditions such as vulval intraepithelial neoplasia
- stopping smoking
The;HPV vaccination;may also reduce your chances of developing vulval cancer.
This is now offered to all girls;and boys who are 12 to 13 years old as part of the routine childhood immunisation programme.
Page last reviewed: 30 April 2021 Next review due: 30 April 2024
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Less Common Skin Cancers
Uncommon types of skin cancer include Kaposi’s sarcoma, mainly seen in people with weakened immune systems; sebaceous gland carcinoma, an aggressive cancer originating in the oil glands in the skin; and Merkel cell carcinoma, which is usually found on sun-exposed areas on the head, neck, arms, and legs but often spreads to other parts of the body.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma Pictures
Squamous cell carcinoma;also appears in areas most exposed to the sun and, as indicated in the pictures below, often presents itself as a scab or sore that doesnt heal, a volcano-like growth with a rim and crater in the middle or simply as a crusty patch of skin that is a bit inflamed and red and doesnt go away over time.
Any lesion that bleeds or itches and doesnt heal within a few weeks may be a concern even if it doesnt look like these Squamous cell carcinoma images.
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What Follow Up Should I Expect After Vulvar Cancer Treatment
Some of the tests that were done to diagnose vulvar cancer or determine the stage may be repeated. Some tests are repeated to see how well treatment is working and determine if changes need to be made.
You may continue to be tested at various time points after treatment has ended to see if your condition has changed and to make sure that the cancer has not returned. Please be sure to keep all of your check-up appointments and regularly scheduled exams.
Recognizing The Symptoms Of Vulvar Cancer
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What Are The Treatments
Treatment is different between separate cases. severity, fitness, stage, location, and size are accounted for this decision. Five approaches are most often used. Partial vulvectomies are when a surgeon removed the tumor and a small rim of healthy tissue surrounding it for precaution. A vulvectomy may case cysts, lymphedema, urinary tract infections , numbness, decreased libido, or urination stream problems. These may be termporary during recovery. In addition to a vulvectomy, a lymph node removal made be advised alongside. A more aggressive approach is used in cases of large spreading or high intensity. radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and or immunotherapy are these treatments. Many oncologists suggest not using such radical interventions due to side effects, especially in cases where patients are impaired or elderly and not in a position to survive harsh events.
How Can Vulvar Cancer Be Prevented
Vaccines are available to prevent HPV, which can cause vulvar cancer. Ask your healthcare provider about these vaccines:
- Recombinant HPV Quadrivalent Vaccine . This vaccine is approved for individuals nine to 26 years of age.
- Recombinant HPV Nonavalent Vaccine . This vaccine is approved for adults through 26 years of age. It may be given to adults up to 45 years of age if appropriate after discussing risk for new HPV infection.
There are no screening tests for vulvar cancer. The best way to reduce your risk is to be aware of the symptoms and see your healthcare provider right away if you develop any of them. Also, be sure to schedule regular checkups, including a physical exam at least annually, for your gynecological health.
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Diagnosis And Staging Of Vulval Cancer
Skin biopsy of the lesion is performed to get an accurate diagnosis of vulval cancer. Under microscopy, the presence of malignant cells along with other histological findings will confirm the diagnosis and the type of vulval cancer.
After initial diagnosis of vulval cancer, a specialist doctor will perform a thorough examination to determine the stage of the cancer. This depends on:
- The size of the tumour
- How deeply the tumour has invaded tissues at the site of origin
- The extent of any invasion into surrounding organs or lymph nodes.
Determining the cancer’s stage is an important factor as it directs what treatment plan should be used. The FIGO System of Staging is commonly used to describe vulval cancer staging. The system classifies the disease from Stage 0 through to Stage IV. Stage 0 represents precancerous lesions whilst Stage IV the most advanced stages of cancer .
Most patients will have blood tests, a chest X-ray and CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis to help stage the cancer.
In a large centre in which there is an experienced multidisciplinary team, some patients with vulval carcinoma may be offered sentinel node biopsy to determine if there microscopic metastases. Requirements are:
- Unifocal tumour
- Small tumour, < 4 cm in diameter
- No palpable lymph nodes.
What Is Vulvar Lichen Sclerosus
Vulvar lichen;sclerosus;is a chronic disorder of the skin. Typical lesions of lichen;sclerosus;are porcelain-white papules and plaques, often seen in conjunction with areas of ecchymosis or purpura. The skin typically appears whitened, thinned and crinkling. The condition can cause severe itching, pain and discomfort as well as interfering with sexual activities and even urination as the lesions fuse.;
- Skin that easily tears and bruises
- Scarred skin on the affected area
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Who Gets Vulvar Cancer
Your chance of getting vulvar cancer is increased if you:
- Have vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia .
- Have human papillomavirus infection.
Other possible risk factors include the following:
- Having many sexual partners.
- Having a history of abnormal Pap tests .
- Having a medical condition that weakens your immune system.
- Being a smoker.
Vulvar cancer is most frequently diagnosed in women aged 65 to 74. However, vulvar cancer is becoming more common in younger women.
Vulvar Cancer Causes And Risk Factors
The exact causes of vulvar cancer arenât clear. But certain things can raise your chances of getting it. These include:
- Age. More than half of cases are in women over age 70.
- A history of unusual Pap tests
- Lichen sclerosus, a condition that makes vulvar skin thin and itchy
- Smoking, especially if youâve also had HPV
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How Is Vulvar Cancer Diagnosed
First and foremost, a thorough gynecological examination should be performed using colposcopy and/or vulvoscopy, which uses a special magnifying instrument for better visualization. Any abnormal-appearing area should be biopsied. Up to one-half of the time, cancer may be “multi-focal”; meaning that the cancer is in two separate places. In addition, other HPV-related cancers can also be present . Hence, a careful exam of all of the skin in the vaginal and groin area, as well as a gynecological exam should be performed. A Pap smear should be performed and additional smears taken from the vagina and vulva for testing.
CT scan or MRI of the abdomen/pelvis may be done to look for disease spread to lymph nodes and/or distant organs in advanced cases, but is not necessary for early-stage disease. If spread to bladder or rectum is suspected, endoscopy should be performed.
Early Detection Best Practices
When caught promptly, almost all squamous cell carcinomas of the skin can be successfully treated. But when they become more advanced, these skin cancers can become dangerous.
Thats why its important to be on the lookout for any SCC warning signs, including new,changing or unusual skin growths.
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What Does Melanoma Skin Cancer Look Like
Instead of a perfect circle, it is a weirdly shaped oval, squiggles, or even a blotch. coloration is also difficult. Many relate to a typical mole as darker than your general tone and red, black, or brown. pink or orangish masses also appear. Sometimes, the hue is indistinguishable from the rest of your skin.
Proper Diagnosis Treatment Vital To Get Relief From Vulvar Itching And Other Irritating Conditions
The vulva is subject to a range of skin problems, many of them inadvertently self-inflicted.
You may routinely pamper your face and work hard to keep it moisturized and irritation-free, but what have you done lately for the more sensitive skin of your vulva, the external genital area surrounding your vagina?
Many women have been primed to think no further than “itch equals yeast infection.” But with age and the decline in estrogen after menopause, women become more prone to a variety of conditions that irritate vulvar skin. These conditions aren’t getting the medical attention they need and women aren’t getting the relief they deserve.
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When Is A Mole A Problem
A mole is a benign growth of melanocytes, cells that gives skin its color. Although very few moles become cancer, abnormal or atypical moles can develop into melanoma over time. “Normal” moles can appear flat or raised or may begin flat and become raised over time. The surface is typically smooth. Moles that may have changed into skin cancer are often irregularly shaped, contain many colors, and are larger than the size of a pencil eraser. Most moles develop in youth or young adulthood. It’s unusual to acquire a mole in the adult years.
What Is Vulvar Cancer
Vulvar cancer can occur on any part of the external organs but most often affects the labia majora or labia minora. Cancer of the vulva is a rare disease, accounting for 0.6 percent of all cancers in women, and it may form slowly over many years. Most vulvar cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. Melanoma is another common type of vulvar cancer that is usually found in the labia minora or clitoris. Other types of vulvar cancer include:
Getting vaccinated against HPV
Having routine Pap tests and pelvic exams
Routinely checking entire body for irregular growth of moles and checking your vulva regularly for any signs of vulvar cancer
The HPV vaccine can prevent the strains of HPV responsible for most cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers. HPV vaccines can only be used to prevent certain types of HPV. They cannot be used to treat an existing HPV infection. To be most effective, one of the vaccines should be given before a person becomes sexually active.
Genetic Testing Aids Early Detection
Johns Hopkins researchers are hard at work developing new detection methods for gynecologic cancers. Learn more and discover how genetic testing for these cancers is saving lives.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Vulvar Cancer
Vulvar cancer may not cause noticeable early symptoms.
If you have one or more of the following symptoms, see your healthcare provider for an examination.
- Changes in the vulvar skin color .
- Growths or lumps in the vulva that look like a wart or ulcer; or a rash or other sore that doesnt heal.
- Itching or burning in the vulvar area that does not go away.
- Bleeding in the vulvar area not related to menstruation .
- Tenderness in the vulvar area.
- Pelvic pain while having sex or peeing.
Are Any Medications Approved To Treat Vulvar Cancer
Yes, bleomycin sulfate is approved in the U.S. to treat squamous cell carcinoma of the cervix and the vulva. This is not a common drug to treat vulvar cancer however, and most medications used today are considered off-label use, but have been studied extensively for this purpose. These medications include:
- Entrectanib .
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What Are The Risk Factors For Vulvar Cancer
Most women diagnosed with vulvar cancer are older than 50, and only a small percentage of vulvar cancer occurs in women ages 40 and under.;
Aside from age, other risk factors can include:;
- HPV infection Cervical cancer
- Vaginal cancer
- Melanoma elsewhere on the body
- Lichen sclerosus
The risk of lichen;sclerosus;becoming vulvar cancer is additionally increased when the initial diagnosis of lichen;sclerosus;is made in women over the age of 70.;
The lifetime risk for developing vulvar squamous cell carcinoma as a complication of lichen; sclerosus ;is estimated to be anywhere from 4 to 6 percent.;
Pagets Disease Of The Vulva
This is a rare type of skin cancer. It usually affects the surface of the skin of the vulva and is slow growing. It is generally seen in women over the age of 50.;
Pagets disease of the vulva causes itching, and it may appear red and flaky. You usually have a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment includes:
- surgery with a wide local excision
- imiquimod cream
This is also known as extramammary Pagets disease as it is similar to Pagets disease of the breast.
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Can I Still Have Sex
Even if you have cancer, you may continue with intercourse as you see fit. If it causes you discomfort or you feel weak, intimacy may not be the activity for you as it uses a lot of energy. Vulvar melanoma is often accompanied by itching, pain, bleeding, and discharge, so you may not feel in the mood. Open wounds, blisters, and sores may make you more vulnerable to infection which you can then spread to your partner. You will also be more at risk for contracting dangerous strains of infections or complications. This is especially true for those who are immunodeficient as a result of chemo or preexisting conditions. You know your own limits and unless otherwise instructed from a medical doctor, do as you please. Certain treatments, especially surgeries, may restrict or limit your sexual activities for a short duration or wait until youre sure of their status.
Causes And Risk Factors
The exact cause of vaginal cancer is unknown, but certain risk factors contribute to its development such as:
Exposure to diethylstilbestrol.;Women exposed to DES in utero or who have taken DES, have a high risk for developing vaginal cancer, especially adenocarcinoma of the vagina. The drug is not given at present because of the discovery that is increased the risk for certain diseases including cancer.
Human Papilloma Virus Infection.;HPV causes genital warts in men and women. The presence of HPV increases the tendency to develop reproductive system cancers such as cervical and vaginal cancer. HPV infection is sexually transmitted, which means that having multiple sexual partners increases the risk for HPV infection.
Being sbove 50 years of age.;Age has been a contributing factor for vaginal cancer because increasing age increases the long-term exposure to certain types of carcinogens, which changes the characteristics of cells.
History of other reproductive system malignancies.;Previous malignancies in the reproductive system, specifically cervical cancer, increase the risk for secondary vaginal cancer.
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