Many types of cancer are well-known today because of their high rate of occurrence. Lung and breast cancers are the top cancer killers for women — but there are many other cancers that affect women too.
Vulvar cancer, a cancer of the female external genital area, is a fairly rare form of cancer. However, it is caused by a very common virus that affects more than 14 million people each year: human papillomavirus (HPV). In fact, the CDC estimates that up to 90 percent of sexually active people will contract some form of HPV in their lifetime. Although many forms of HPV will go away on their own, some have the ability to cause genital cancers later. Vulvar cancer is one of those cancers. Some people who get vulvar cancer, however, never had HPV.
Although vulvar cancer is rare, you should know the signs and symptoms and what you can do to prevent and treat it. Here are the facts:
- More than half of all vulvar cancers are caused by HPV. This is a sexually transmitted infection that can also cause several other types of cancers of the genital area. Many people contract HPV after becoming sexually active, but they often don’t have any symptoms. In some people, it can cause genital warts.
- There is a vaccine available that can help prevent vulvar cancer and other cancers related to HPV. It is recommended for 11- to 12-year-old females, and can be given up to age 26.
- Using a latex condom is the most reliable way to prevent the spread of HPV or other sexually transmitted diseases — and to decrease your risk of vulvar, cervical, and other genital cancers.
- Vulvar cancer can take years to develop. Symptoms may include unusual growths in the genital area, such as a lump, mass, cut, sore, or an unusual mole. There may also be itching or burning, as well as abnormal bleeding. If you have any of these symptoms, call your gynecologist.
- It is treatable, so don’t ignore the symptoms. When found and treated early, the cure rate for vulvar cancer is 90 percent.
- Vulvar cancer is most common in women 65 — 75 years old. If you’re seeing your gynecologist for yearly exams, your chances of detecting vulvar cancer early are very good.
Although your chances of getting vulvar cancer are small, knowing the signs and getting early treatment can mean a much better outcome. It’s another reason you should see your gynecologist regularly, and don’t be afraid to discuss any unusual symptoms you may have.
CarePoint Health Gynecology
With the help of a skilled gynecologist at CarePoint Health, you can make educated decisions about your health to be at your best at any stage of life. For more information about the comprehensive women’s services we provide, please contact us.
Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.