What is Vulvar Cancer?

Vulvar cancer is cancer that starts in the vulva, including the labia, clitoris and the openings to the urethra and vagina. It most often affects the labia, the folds of skin outside the vagina. It may also start on the clitoris or in the glands on the sides of the vaginal opening. Vulvar cancer is relatively rare, representing about 5 percent of all gynecologic cancers, and only about 1 percent of all female cancers in general.

Vulvar Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Nearly 20 percent of women with vulvar cancer have no symptoms. Women with vulvar cancer often have a history of vaginal itching and having tried a number of skin creams to relieve their symptoms. They may also experience bleeding.

Skin changes around the vulva that may suggest vulvar cancer include:

  • Mole or freckle, which may be pink, red, white or gray
  • Skin thickening or lump
  • Skin sore (ulcer)

Other symptoms include:

  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Unusual odor

These symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, so it is best to contact a Penn Medicine physician for a diagnosis.