Symptoms depend on whether it is a cancer or a pre-cancer and what type of vulvar cancer it is.
vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia
Most women with vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) do not have any symptoms. when a woman with vin has a symptom, most often it’s itching that doesn’t go away or get better. an area of vin may look different from the normal skin of the vulva. it is often thicker and lighter than the surrounding normal skin. however, an area of vin may also appear red, pink, or darker than the surrounding skin.
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Because these changes are often caused by conditions other than precancerous, some women don’t realize they may have a serious condition. some try to treat the problem themselves with over-the-counter remedies. Sometimes doctors may not even recognize the condition at first.
invasive squamous cell cancer of the vulva
Almost all women with invasive vulvar cancers will have symptoms. These may include:
- an area of the vulva that looks different than normal; it may be lighter or darker than the surrounding normal skin, or appear red or pink.
- a bump or lump, which may be red, pink, or white and may have a wart-like or raw surface or feel rough or thick
- thickening of the skin of the vulva
- pain or burning
- Bleeding or discharge not related to the normal menstrual period
- an open sore (especially if it lasts a month or more)
- a lump
- bleeding or discharge
Verrucous carcinoma, a subtype of invasive squamous cell vulvar cancer, appears as a cauliflower-like growth similar to genital warts.
These symptoms are often caused by other, non-cancerous conditions. still, if you have these symptoms, you should have them checked out by a doctor or nurse.
Patients with vulvar melanoma may have many of the same symptoms as other vulvar cancers, including:
Most vulvar melanomas are black or dark brown, but they can be white, pink, red, or other colors. they can be found all over the vulva, but most are found in the area around the clitoris or on the labia majora or minora.
Vulvar melanomas can sometimes start in a mole, so a change in a mole that has been present for years can also indicate melanoma. The abcde rule can be used to help distinguish a normal mole from one that could be a melanoma.
asymmetry: one half of the mole does not match the other.
border irregularity: the edges of the mole are irregular or notched.
color: the color on the mole is not the same. there may be different shades of tan, brown, or black, and sometimes patches of red, blue, or white.
diameter: the mole is larger than 6 mm (about 1/4 inch) across.
evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.
The most important sign of melanoma is a change in the size, shape, or color of a mole. still, not all melanomas fit the abcde rule.
If you have a mole that has changed, ask your doctor to check it out.
bartholin’s gland cancer
A distinct mass (lump) on either side of the vaginal opening may be a sign of Bartholin’s gland carcinoma. however, more often, a lump in this area is due to a bartholin’s gland cyst, which is much more common (and is not cancer).
Pain and a red, scaly area are symptoms of Paget’s disease of the vulva.