Vulvar cancer forms in a woman's external genitalia. The vulva includes the inner and outer lips of the vagina, the clitoris (sensitive tissue between the lips), and the opening of the vagina and its glands.
Vulvar cancer most often affects the outer vaginal lips. Less often, cancer affects the inner vaginal lips or the clitoris.
Vulvar cancer usually develops slowly over a period of years. Abnormal cells can grow on the surface of the vulvar skin for a long time. This precancerous condition is called vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) or dysplasia. Because it is possible for VIN or dysplasia to develop into vulvar cancer, treatment of this condition is very important.
Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor. Risk factors for vulvar cancer include the following:
Vulvar cancer often does not cause early symptoms. When symptoms occur, they may be caused by vulvar cancer or by other conditions. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:
The following tests and procedures may be used: