Raising Awareness for Vulval and Vaginal Cancer
February is National Cancer Prevention Month, and each year in the UK over 21,000 women are diagnosed with a form of gynaecological cancer. In this article, we are raising awareness for the lesser known gynaecological cancers: vulval and vaginal cancer.
What is vulval cancer?
Vulval cancer is one of the rarer gynaecological cancers, with just over 1,000 cases diagnosed in the UK every year. The vulva is a woman’s external genitalia. Some vulval cancers develop from VIN (vulva intraepithelial neoplasia) which is a precancerous change and can be treated to reduce the risk of cancer.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms and signs include:
- Persistent itching or pruritus which lasts for more that a few days
- A mole or pigmented patch in the vulva that changes shape, colour, or size
- Pain or soreness
- Thickened skin patch which looks different in texture
- Ulceration or bleeding
- Swelling or lump which is irregular
- Dark or red patches on the skin
If you have any of these symptoms, please see your doctor urgently and ask for a specialist referral. Some conditions can only be diagnosed by examination under a microscope (vulvoscopy) or biopsy. It is best to get things checked out for peace of mind.
How is vulval cancer treated?
As with all gynaecological cancers, treatment will depend on a variety of factors such as the stage of the cancer. Although there are a variety of options, the main treatments include surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy.
What is vaginal Cancer?
Vaginal cancer is the rarest of the gynaecological cancers and is diagnosed in 250-300 women a year in the UK, with over 70% of diagnoses in women over 60. Vaginal cancer is a skin cancer which is caused by a cell changing its growth pattern, causing it to increase in size each time it replicates.
What are the symptoms?
Usually there are no symptoms at all but can include:
- Abnormal smear is the commonest presentation as sometimes the vaginal cells are picked up on a cervical smear
- Persistent vaginal itch
- Smelly or blood tinted vaginal discharge
- Pain when urinating
- A vaginal lump
How is vaginal cancer treated?
Much like other gynaecological cancers, treatment depends on where the cancer is located and how far it has spread. Possible treatments include internal or external radiotherapy dependent on the location of the cancer, surgery, or chemotherapy.
What can you do minimise your risks?
Have regular smear tests and see your GP if you are concerned about any symptom, alternatively call London Gynaecology on 0207 10 11 700.