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Vulvovaginal Cancer Resources
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Vulvovaginal Cancer

Vulvovaginal Cancer

The external female sex organs, including the labia, clitoris, vaginal opening and mons, are collectively known as the vulva. The vagina is the muscular canal through which babies are born (the birth canal) and through which menstrual flow passes through the vagina. Cancer in any of these areas is known as vulvovaginal cancer.

What are the symptoms of vulvovaginal cancer?
Most such cancers form in either the labia majora or labia minora (the outer and inner vaginal lips). Pain during intercourse or at other times, itching, spotting, bleeding, abnormal discharge, swelling and a noticeable lump in the vagina or on the vulva can all be symptoms.

How is vulvovaginal cancer diagnosed?
A pelvic examination with colposcopy will be done. A colposcope is a special lighted magnifying instrument that can give a good close-up view of the cervix and nearby areas. Other imaging may be performed to see if the cancer has spread.

What are the treatments for vulvovaginal cancer?
Treatments depend on the exact type of cancer, its location and your age and general health. Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are all possibilities. When the cancer is found early, only as much tissue as is necessary will be removed, so as to retain the ability to have sex and to urinate and defecate. At other times, it is necessary to remove larger amounts of tissue. In some cases, plastic surgery can improve the appearance after extensive surgery. If the ability to urinate or defecate normally is affected, a urostomy or colostomy (in which urine or feces are collected in an external bag) may be performed.

What are the risk factors for vulvovaginal cancer?
A history of papillomavirus (HPV), smoking and advanced age are risk factors, as is a history of any precancerous vaginal condition. Women who have had a hysterectomy or cervical cancer, were very young when they had their first sexual intercourse, or who have had many sex partners are at increased risk. Formerly, DES exposure in daughters whose mothers took the drug during pregnancy were at higher risk, but that drug has long been off the market.

What are some additional resources for learning about vulvovaginal cancer?
If you or your loved one is facing vulvovaginal cancer, CalvertHealth has a whole range of services designed to help you so you never take this journey alone. Please talk to your CalvertHealth provider or your Nurse Navigator, or check the service pages for information about treatments, services and support groups.
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