What are the symptoms of vulvar cancer?

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Women who have pre-cancers of the vulva (vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia) may not have any symptoms. Or, the symptoms may appear to be something caused by another condition. Most often, women with vulvar pre-cancers have itching that does not go away or a patch of skin on the vulva that looks thicker or is a different color from surrounding skin.

Symptoms of invasive vulvar cancers can include:

  • A bump or lump on the vulva. The bump could be white, pink or red and may feel rough or thick.
  • An area of the vulva that is discolored. It may be red or pink or lighter or darker than the surrounding area.
  • Pain or burning.
  • Itching.
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge.
  • Thickening of the skin of the vulva.
  • An open sore that does not get better.

How is vulvar cancer diagnosed? 

If one of your pelvic exams or Pap tests comes back with abnormal results, your doctor will likely recommend additional diagnostic tests as well as a physical exam. Your doctor will also ask about your medical history and your family medical history.

Other diagnostic tests may be used, including:

  • Biopsy - During a biopsy, a health care provider will remove a tiny piece of tissue from a suspicious area on the vulva and a pathologist will examine the tissue under a microscope to see if it has cancerous cells.
  • Imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scans or MRIs.
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