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Vulvar Cancer

About the Department

Cancer that affects from the inner edges of the labia majora or the labia minora is called vulvar cancer. The vulva comprises of the lips that surrounds the vagina, the clitoris and the Bartholin's glands. It is the external genitals of a woman. 

The cancer may start either from the clitoris or from the Bartholin glands. A lump or a sore formation on the vulva that causes itching occurs during vulvar cancer. Most of the time, older women around the age of 65 are at risk of developing vulvar cancer although it has been known to affect younger women too. This type of cancer constitutes approximately 4% of all the gynaecological cancers.  

If there is a development of a mutation in the cell’s DNA, it can lead to cancer. With rapid growth and expansion, the mutated cells divide forming new cells that contain the mutilation. While the mutilated cells keep growing, it also keeps destroying the healthy cells in the body. The mutilated cells accumulate and form a tumour that could be malignant or benign. If the tumour is malignant, it may also penetrate to other body parts, spreading cancer as it progresses. 

There are a number of risk factors associated with the development of vulvar cancer in women. The common ones include the woman’s age, exposure to Human papillomavirus and HIV infection and even smoking.

If you have been diagnosed with vulvar cancer, you will be overwhelmed and have lots of questions and concerns about the type of cancer you have and what it means for your health and life in general. Our specialist team at Fortis Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road are there to counsel you through the whole process of vulvar cancer treatment and care. With access to the latest treatments, technologies and integrative oncology services in a modern facility, we concentrate on 100% patient care and recovery through successful therapy.

The Department of Ovarian Cancer at Fortis Hospitals have some of the leading names in gynaecological oncology who are masters in treating vulvar cancer. As a team, we believe that every cancer is as unique as the patient who is fighting against it. Therefore, our objective is to maximise our battle against cancer through precision therapy, personalised care that is provided by experts skilled with the knowledge to fight the complexities of a challenging condition. 

Areas of Care

Depending on the type of the tissue that starts the cancerous cells in the vulva, the most common form is known as:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma

But, there are lesser known forms of vulvar cancers that can affect women too. These include:

  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Melanoma
  • Sarcoma
  • Verrucous carcinoma

At Fortis Hospitals, we just don’t deal with cancer alone. At every stage, every day, we beat the disease a little bit at a time. With comprehensive patient care delivered by our specialist doctors, we focus on keys aspects of diagnosis, treatment, effective management of side effects and survivorship for our cancer patients. 

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Signs and Symptoms of Vulvar Cancers

There may or may not be signs and symptoms of vulvar cancer in women. However, the common symptoms include:

- If you feel the presence of a lump or growth in or on the vulvar region or on the enlarged lymph node
- If you feel that a particular area of the vulvar skin is differently textured or coloured than the rest of the vulvar skin
- If you experience constant itching, ache, soreness or a burning sensation on the vulvar region
- If you experience pain every time you urinate
- If you observe unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge not related to your menstruation
- If you have an ulcer for over a month
- If you notice a transformation on the appearance of an existing mole 
- If you notice growths which are wart-like

If your symptoms concern you then you should consult with a healthcare professional right away. Your doctor will enquire on the duration of your symptoms and try and figure out the cause of your problem. If the doctor suspects vulvar cancer, he may refer you to a specialist. 

Our Diagnostic Services

Depending on the type of vulvar cancer, the symptoms that you have been experiencing, your age, current medical condition and any earlier diagnostic test results will help to determine the necessary screenings required to diagnose your condition. 

The list of recommended tests may include:

- Physical and Pelvic Examination:

This the first diagnostic screening required where the healthcare professional inspects the vulva, feels the uterus, vagina, bladder and rectum to see if there are any unusual changes.

- Biopsy:

During this procedure, a sample is collected from the vulva and then examined under a microscope and analysed for the presence of cancerous cell formation. 

- Endoscopy:

With the assistance of a tool called an endoscope, the doctor is able to examine the inside of the patient’s body. The sub-types of endoscopy include:

  • Cystoscopy
  • Proctoscopy 
  • Colonoscopy

- Imagine Tests:

A number of imaging screenings will be prescribed to check the extent and progress of the vulvar cancer. Some of the common tests may be:

  • Chest X-ray
  • CT Scan
  • PET Scan
  • MRI

Cancer treatment is now seeing a new era of precision therapy with more modern diagnostic tools and techniques. At Fortis, Bannerghatta Road, our team of dedicated cancer specialists will address all your questions about any of these diagnostic screenings and how it can help detect your present condition.

Treatment Options

At Fortis Hospitals, we use multidisciplinary teams to treat vulvar cancer that comprises of specialists from various medical domains who collaborate to make decisions on the best way to advance with your cancer treatment. Your care team will include an oncologist surgeon, a non-surgical cancer expert and practise nurses. 

It may be confusing for you and your family to decide on a particular course of action with regards to your cancer treatment. Your care team at Fortis, will help you to make an informed decision. Your treatment may include one or more of these therapies:

- Surgical therapy is used in the removal of your vulvar cancer. The type of surgery used will be determined by the stage of your cancer. There are three available courses of surgical therapy application including:

  • Radical Wide Local Excision
  • Radical Partial Vulvectomy
  • Radical Vulvectomy

However, there may be a requirement of an additional surgical procedure in order to find out if the malignant cells have penetrated to any other parts of the patient’s body including the lymph nodes or the groin. If that is the case, then these organs will have to be surgically removed too. This may include multiple procedures like:

  • Sentinel node biopsy
  • Groin lymphadenectomy
  • Pelvic exenteration

- Reconstructive Surgery is a procedure by which the vulva can be recreated using a skin graft. The additional skin can be taken from your thigh or stomach that will be used to wound in your gap in the vulva area. This is only required in case the area from where the tissue has been extracted during surgery cannot be neatly stitched up.

- Radiation therapy uses high energy x-ray beams that ae targeted on the cancerous cells in order to destroy them. Radiation therapy can include both external or internal radiation depending on the patient’s treatment requirements. 

- Chemotherapy involves the usage of medication to kill cancer cells in the body by injecting the drugs through an IV. Chemotherapy can also be used to control vulvar cancer symptoms if the cancer has progressed to an advanced stage. It can also be used in combination with radiation therapy.

Being diagnosed with vulvar cancer has a significant impact on your life both physically and mentally. You may experience depression on being diagnosed, but things may look optimistic as you see positive effects from your cancer treatment at Fortis Hospitals. Having a committed care team working to fight this disease with you and your family, it is important to stay in a confident state of mind as that also has an impact on your overall health condition.

Our Team That Cares

At Fortis, you will have the most modern technologies, innovative diagnostic screenings and treatment options along with an expert cancer team collaborating their time and talents in combating your cancer round the clock. Using evidence-based support therapies, your committed care team at Fortis Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road manages your side effects, helps to maintain your energy levels and keeps you physically and mentally strong throughout your treatment.