Search icon


13th May 2024

What is vulval cancer and what are the symptoms?

Kat O'Connor

Knowing the symptoms of vulval cancer is so important

There are so many health issues to be aware of as a woman. We’re not given enough information as teenagers and it can feel quite overwhelming in adulthood when you learn about everything from womb cancer, and the side effects of the pill, to vulval cancer.

There are so many conditions out there, but knowing the symptoms is one of the best things you can do to protect your health.

One we’ve recently been reading about is vulval cancer. It isn’t discussed as much as breast cancer or ovarian, but it affects at least 70 people a year in Ireland.

Although it typically affects older women, women of any age can be diagnosed with vulval cancer.

The Irish Cancer Society confirmed that vulval cancer is a slow-developing cancer. It is rarer than other forms of cancer, but it can happen at any age.

The charity explained that the risk of developing vulval cancer increases as one ages.

How does vulval cancer develop?

Vulval cancer develops when the cells in your vulva change and develop in an abnormal way. The cells may develop to form a tumour.

The Irish Cancer Society confirmed it can develop in any of the external sex organs that make up the vulva.

However, it most commonly occurs on the outer lips and inner lips.

It occurs less commonly in the clitoris.

What are the symptoms?

There are few early symptoms of vulval cancer, but the main ones to look out for include:

  • Itching, burning, and soreness of the vulva that doesn’t go away.
  • A wart-like growth on the skin of the vulva
  • A lump or a swelling of your vulva  
  • Pain in the vulval area
  • Thickened, raised, red, white, or dark patches on the skin of the vulva
  • Bleeding or a blood-stained vaginal discharge not related to your menstrual cycle
  • Burning pain on passing urine or during sexual intercourse
  • A mole of the vulva that has changes in colour or shape

Screening and diagnosis

Unfortutely, there is no national vulval cancer screening in Ireland, but you can get abnormal changes checked during your cervical check. You should also see your GP immediately if you’re concerned about unusual symptoms, lumps, or pain.

Women have also been encouraged to check your own vulva regularly for abnormalities. You can do this by using a mirror.

If your GP thinks you need more tests then they will send you for a pelvic exam and a biopsy.

Your doctor may also refer you for an internal vaginal exam.


The treatment you will undergo will depend on the cancer grading. The typical treatments for vulval cancer include surgery to remove the cancer

Patients may also undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Patients may experience some side effects including bleeding and infection. However, other side effects include bowel and bladder side-effects.

Some patients may also experience early menopause, blood clots, or lymphedema but they are less common.

Patients have been warned that they could develop side effects in the months after treatment.



Vulvar cancer

No posts have been found