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Vulvar Cancer

< Gynecologic Cancer

Vulvar Cancer

About Vulvar Cancer

Vulvar cancer is a rare disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the vulva, a woman's external genitalia. The vulva includes:

  • Clitoris (sensitive tissue between the lips)
  • Inner and outer lips of the vagina
  • Mons pubis (the rounded area in front of the pubic bones that becomes covered with hair at puberty)
  • Opening of the vagina and its glands
  • Perineum (the area between the vulva and the anus)

Vulvar cancer most often affects the outer vaginal lips. Less often, cancer affects the inner vaginal lips, clitoris or vaginal glands.

Vulvar cancer usually forms slowly over a number of years. Abnormal cells can grow on the surface of the vulvar skin for a long time. This condition is called vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN). Because it is possible for VIN to become vulvar cancer, it is very important to get treatment.


Signs of vulvar cancer include bleeding or itching.

Vulvar cancer often does not cause early signs or symptoms. Signs and symptoms may be caused by vulvar cancer or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • A lump or growth on the vulva
  • Bleeding not related to menstruation (periods)
  • Changes in the vulvar skin, such as color changes or growths that look like a wart or ulcer
  • Itching in the vulvar area, that does not go away
  • Tenderness in the vulvar area

Risk Factors

Having vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia or HPV infection can affect the risk of vulvar cancer.

Risk factors for vulvar cancer include the following:

  • Having a history of genital warts
  • Having human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Having vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN)

Other possible risk factors include the following:

  • Having a history of abnormal Pap testsĀ 
  • Having first sexual intercourse at a young age
  • Having many sexual partners