Types of Vulvar Cancer

Nearly 90 percent of vulvar cancers are cancers that begin in the squamous cells. These are the cells that make up most of the skin. Squamous cell carcinomas are by far the most common type of vulvar cancer. Other rare types of vulvar cancer include melanoma and basal cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and Paget's disease of the vulva.

Squamous Cell Vulvar Carcinoma

The most common symptoms of this type of vulvar cancer are red, pink or white bumps with a wartlike surface. An area of the vulva may appear white and feel rough. About half of the women with this type of vulvar cancer complain of persistent vulvar itching and a growth. You may also have pain, burning, painful urination, bleeding, and discharge not linked with your normal menstrual period. An ulcer that persists for more than a month is another sign. A subtype of this cancer is called verrucous carcinoma. It produces growths that have a cauliflower-like appearance. Squamous carcinomas that are small and have not spread are highly curable by surgery alone.

Melanoma of the Vulva

The second most common type of vulvar cancer is melanoma of the vulva. A possible sign of vulvar melanoma is a dark pigmented growth or a change in a mole that has been present for years.

Another type of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, occurs very rarely in the vulva. However, it is the most common cancer in skin that is exposed to the sun.

Other Types of Vulvar Cancer

Adenocarcinoma. This is a type of cancer that develops from glands. Only a small percentage of vulvar cancers are this type. Some vulvar adenocarcinomas develop from Bartholin's glands, which are at the opening of the vagina and make a fluid similar to mucus. In very rare cases, vulvar adenocarcinoma forms in the sweat glands of the vulvar skin.

Paget's disease of the vulva. With this condition, adenocarcinoma cells are found in the vulvar skin. Symptoms include soreness and a red, scaly area. Sometimes these cells also invade deeper tissues.

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