Vulvar cancer affects almost 4000 women in the United States annually and it starts in the woman’s external genitalia including the outer lips of the vagina, the clitoris, vaginal opening and surrounding glands. This cancer may start as a growth or sore spot that doesn’t heal (like a skin cancer) or a wart in the private area that itches and burns. Traditionally this cancer was found in older women over 70 years old, but now many younger women are affected due to lesions such as warts and human papilloma virus (HPV). It’s so important for women to have these private area problems addressed by a medical professional, as the cure rate is high when detected and treated at early stages. Many women may feel embarrassed about lesions in the vulvar area, and this is dangerous since the cancer will spread if not treated.
Treatment for vulvular cancer first requires a biopsy by a clinician. Most of these cancers can be treated and cured with surgery, and the earlier this these diseases are found the better. Most patients will need removal of some of the lymph nodes in the groin areas. Many patients will be offered sentinel node biopsy with removing one or two lymph nodes in each groin instead of removing all of the lymph nodes. The survival rate is very high when the cancer is found early. More advanced stages may involve spread of cancer in the lymph nodes in the groin or in the pelvic area. Advanced cases or recurrent vulvar cancers will require radiation, sometimes with surgery and/or chemotherapy.
Talya Schwarzberg, MD
Dr. Schwarzberg is currently seeing patients with different types of cancers, with a focus on breast and gynecologic cancers. She is a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.