Vulvar Cancer and Vaginal Cancer

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Vulvar / Vaginal Cancer: Symptoms, Risk Factors, Treatment 

What is vulvar cancer?

Vulvar cancer is a type of cancer that occurs on the female genitalia. Specifically, it includes the area that surrounds the urethra and vagina, including the clitoris and labia.  

What is vaginal cancer?

Vaginal cancer is a rare cancer that occurs in your vagina. The vagina is a muscular tube that connects your uterus with your outer genitals. Vaginal cancer most commonly occurs in the cells that line the surface of your vagina, which is sometimes called the birth canal. While several types of cancer can spread to your vagina from other places in your body, cancer that begins in your vagina is rare.

What are the symptoms of vulvar / vaginal cancer?

  • Vulvar itching or burning
  • Mass or bump along the vulva
  • Abnormal bleeding from outside of the vagina
  • Irregular lesion on the vulva
  • Persistent abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal mass
  • Irregular vaginal bleeding
  • Bleeding after sexual intercourse
  • Vaginal pressure/pain

What are the risk factors for vulvar / vaginal cancer?

  • Older age
  • Exposure to human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Smoking
  • Weakened immune system (HIV positive, history of an organ transplant)
  • History of cervical cancer
  • Having the skin condition lichen sclerosus

What are the preventative measures against vulvar / vaginal cancer?

  • HPV vaccination
  • No smoking

What should be discussed with my OBGYN?

  • Mention any new itching/burning on the outside of the vagina
  • Discuss HPV vaccination based on age, as many vulvar cancers are related to HPV
  • Mention any abdormal vaginal discharge
  • Review your anatomy with your doctor to know what is normal and what is 
  • Ask what your risk factors are for vulvar and vaginal cancer 
  • If your uterus/cervix is removed, there may still be a role for vaginal Pap smears

What are the treatment options for vulvar / vaginal cancer?

Women who have been diagnosed with or who have suspected vulvar cancer or vaginal cancer should be referred to a gynecologic oncologist for further evaluation to determine the optimal treatment option. Vulvar / vaginal cancer is most commonly treated with surgery, but some women will also need radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. 

Our UCLA Health doctors are dedicated to providing patients with individualized care. So, depending on your age, the stage, size and location of your cancer, our expert team may use a combination of treatments in caring for you and your cancer.

Find a UCLA Health Physician for vulvar cancer or vaginal cancer >