There are different types of vulvar cancer, and each can produce its own set of symptoms. However, the symptoms of vulvar cancer can easily be attributed to other, less serious conditions, so women should be aware of the symptoms of vulvar cancer and what is considered normal for their own bodies. Any abnormalities should be promptly reported to a physician.
Symptoms of vulvar squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of vulvar cancer, usually developing slowly over the course of several years. The symptoms of vulvar squamous cell carcinoma include:
- Changes of color or texture in the vulva
- Persistent pain, itching or burning
- Wart-like growths
- Abnormal bleeding or discharge
- Painful urination
Symptoms of vulvar melanoma
An uncommon type of vulvar cancer, vulvar melanoma can produce symptoms similar to other types of vulvar cancer, such as pain, itching and bleeding. Additionally, vulvar melanomas are often black or dark brown and are typically found around the clitoris or on the labia minora or majora. Melanomas can also start in a mole, so women should be especially attentive to changes in an existing mole, moles that are asymmetrical, moles with jagged edges and moles greater than 6 millimeters in diameter.
Symptoms of Bartholin’s gland vulvar cancer
Some vulvar cancers can form in the glands that lie next to the vaginal opening in the labia majora. These glands act normally to provide moisture to the area. Both squamous cell and adenocarcinomas (glandular cancers) can cause these areas to swell. While a swelling of these glands can be benign, there is a risk of an underlying cancer that increases with age. Sometimes these are painless and other times they can become infected and inflamed causing pain. A swollen mass in the area of the vulva or vagina should be examined by a medical professional.
Vulvar cancer treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center
At Moffitt Cancer Center, the experts in our Gynecologic Oncology program regularly treat women with all types of vulvar cancer. Early detection is key for successful treatment. Our gynecologic oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists and other experts collaborate as a tumor board to review and discuss all surgical cases and other challenging diagnoses. Based on the type and stage of the patient’s cancer, her overall health, age and other factors, we can recommend an individualized treatment plan that may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of these methods. Additionally, Moffitt offers a number of supportive care services under the same roof as our clinical treatments to ensure our patients’ needs are met as they cope with the challenges of undergoing cancer treatment.
Medically reviewed by Robert Wenham, MD, Chair, Gynecologic Oncology Program
If you are showing symptoms of vulvar cancer and would like to consult with an expert at Moffitt, submit a new patient registration form online or call 1-888-663-3488. Referrals are not needed to schedule a consultation. Virtual visits are also available.