What is vulvar cancer?

Vulvar cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the tissues of the vulva grow in an uncontrolled way. It can also be called cancer of the vulva, vulva cancer or vulvar cancer. It is different from vaginal cancer

About the vulva

The vulva is the external part of a woman’s sex organs. Cancer of the vulva may involve any of these organs. 

The vulva consists of soft fatty tissue covered with pubic hair called the mons pubis. The pubic hair is above the fleshy outer lips of the vulva, called the labia. The labia have two outer larger lips (the labia majora), which surround two inner smaller and thinner lips (the labia minora). 

At the top, where the labia minora join, is a highly sensitive organ called the clitoris. When stimulated, the clitoris fills with blood and enlarges in size. Stimulation of the clitoris can result in sexual excitement and orgasm, or climax. 

The area of the skin between the vulva and anus is called the perineum. All these structures are visible from outside the body. 

The most common areas for vulvar cancer to develop are the inner edges of the labia majora and the labia minora. Less often, vulvar cancer may also involve the clitoris or the Bartholin’s glands (small glands, one on each side of the vagina). It can also affect the perineum. 

A diagram of a person's body

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