Vulvar Cancer Information
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What Is Vulvar Cancer?
Vulvar cancer is cancer that begins in the tissues of the vulva. The vulva is the external part of the female genitalia, including the labia majora and minora (inner and outer lips, or skin folds), clitoris and vaginal opening. Vulvar cancer most often affects the vaginal lips (the edges of the labia).
Vulvar cancer is relatively rare. The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 4,500 women in the United States will be diagnosed with this form of cancer each year.
Types of Vulvar Cancer
There are two main types of vulvar cancer:
- Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of vulvar cancer, accounting for over 80 percent of cases. One particular subtype of squamous cell cancer is called Verrucous carcinoma. This form grows slowly, often looks like a large wart, and is associated with a good prognosis (outlook).
- Adenocarcinoma accounts for approximately 8 percent of vulvar cancers. These cancers usually begin in the Bartholin glands, which are found just inside the entrance of the vagina and normally produce a mucous-like fluid that acts as a lubricant. Adenocarcinomas can also develop in sweat glands. Another related condition is Paget disease, in which the adenocarcinoma cells are restricted to the top layer of the skin of the vulva. Some patients with this condition may also have an area of invasive adenocarcinoma.
Other types of cancers, such as melanomas, basal cell carcinomas and sarcomas, may also occur in the vulva. These types account for less than 10 percent of all vulvar cancers.
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