Bowel cancer: Dr Philippa Kaye lists the symptoms
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Indeed, Macmillan states: “Vulval cancer symptoms can happen with conditions other than cancer. But it is important to get checked by your GP if you think you have any symptoms.” The charity says burning pain when peeing is a key sign. As with other cancers, vulval cancer is easier to treat and cure if it is diagnosed early.
Other signs include:
- Itching, burning or soreness of the vulva that does not go away
- A lump, swelling or wart-like growth on the vulva
- Thickened, raised, red, white or dark patches on the skin of the vulva
- Bleeding, or a blood-stained vaginal discharge, that is not related to periods
- Vulval tenderness or pain
- A sore or ulcerated area on the vulva
- A mole on the vulva that changes shape or colour
- A lump in the groin.
Macmillan says: “Many people find it embarrassing talking about symptoms like these. But it is always important to get them checked by your GP.“Vulval cancer can take many years to develop. It usually starts with pre-cancerous cells that change slowly over several years into cancerous cells.”
Cancer Research UK notes that thrush is a common yeast infection that can affect the mouth and skin in different parts of the body.
The charity says the symptoms of vaginal thrush can be similar to vulval cancer and include:
- Itching and soreness
- White discharge
- Pain when passing urine or having sex.
It says “it is worth going to the GP for a check up” and notes that symptoms of vulval cancer can be vague, particularly at an early stage.
The Mayo Clinic says it is not clear what causes vulvar cancer. It says: “In general, doctors know that cancer begins when a cell develops changes (mutations) in its DNA.
“The DNA contains the instructions that tell a cell what to do. The mutations tell the cell to grow and divide rapidly.
“The cell and its offspring go on living when other normal cells would die. The accumulating cells form a tumour that may be cancerous, invading nearby tissue and spreading to other parts of the body.”
It adds that although the exact cause of vulvar cancer isn’t known, certain factors appear to increase your risk of the disease.
These include increasing age, being exposed to human papillomavirus (HPV, smoking, having a weakened immune system, having a history of precancerous conditions of the vulva or having a skin condition involving the vulva.
NHS Inform says the main treatment for vulval cancer is surgery to remove the cancerous tissue from the vulva and any lymph nodes containing cancerous cells.
It notes: “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.
“Radiotherapy and chemotherapy may be used without surgery if you’re not well enough to have an operation, or if the cancer has spread and it isn’t possible to remove it all.”
The health body adds that if your GP feels some further tests are necessary, they will refer you to a hospital specialist called a gynaecologist.
A gynaecologist is a specialist in treating conditions of the female reproductive system.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that GPs consider referring a woman who has an unexplained vulval lump or ulcer, or unexplained bleeding.
The gynaecologist will ask about your symptoms and examine your vulva again, and they may recommend a test called a biopsy to determine whether you do have cancer.
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