Women’s health is something we care about deeply at Pink Parcel. From PMS to sore nipples to cancer, there’s nothing we won’t talk about, which is why we’re teaming up with The Eve Appeal this September in support of Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month. Each week, we’ll be helping the UK’s only gynaecological cancer charity to spread the key signs and symptoms of the five gynae cancers and talk as much as we can about how you can safeguard yourself against them – read again the NTKs of ovarian cancer, get the lowdown on cervical cancer, and today, learn all about cancer of the vulva.
What is vulval cancer?
Vulval cancer should not be confused with cancer of the vagina. The vagina is the inside whereas the vulva is the external genitals including the lips, clitoris and the Bartholin’s glands (two small glands each side of the vagina).
The Eve Appeal say about 80% of vulval cancer cases are in women over 60 and any possible symptoms you’re experiencing in the vulva area are likely to be a less serious problem than cancer.
What are the symptoms?
For peace of mind, it is important to see your doctor if you’re seeing any of the following in your vulva:
A persistent itch
Pain or soreness
A change in skin colour such as red or patchy areas
A lump or open sore that you can see or feel
A mole that changes shape or colour
How does it develop?
Some vulval cancers develop from a condition called vulval intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN).
This non-invasive precancerous condition is the stage before a cancer has developed and tends to be diagnosed in women in their 30s – 50s.
This does not mean you have vulval cancer and some of these cell changes will go away without the need for any treatment. Finding these abnormal cells early however can help to prevent vulval cancer developing.
How common is it?
Vulval cancer is rare with just over 1000 cases diagnosed every year.
How is it diagnosed and treatment?
If your GP is concerned about symptoms, you will be referred to a gynecologist who may then take a biopsy to check for abnormal cells.
Surgery to remove the cancerous tissue from the vulva and any lymph nodes containing cancerous cells, is the main treatment for vulval cancer.
Removal of the cancerous tissue, partial removal of the vulva, or a full vulvectomy are the surgical options but treatment will then depend on how far the cancer has spread.
Some people may also have radiotherapy (where radiation is used to destroy cancer cells) or chemotherapy (where medication is used to kill cancer cells), or both, say the NHS.
Why is talking about cancer so important?
The Eve Appeal recently surveyed women across the UK and their findings showed that 61% of women were unable to identify the vulva and only 22% had talked about gynae health or how to spot symptoms with a loved one. To raise awareness of gynaecological cancer, spread the word with the hashtag #gynaemonth.
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