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Female service members stand on the flightline for Women's History Month at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, March 19, 2021. The service members participated in the Air Force's two-week advanced aerial combat training exercise, Red Flag. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Natalie Rubenak)
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Vulvar and Vaginal Cancer

Vulvar cancer starts in the vulva, which is the outer part of the female genital organs. The vulva has two folds of skin, called the labia. Vaginal cancer starts in the vagina (birth canal), the hollow, tube-like channel between the bottom of the Click to closeuterusAlso known as the womb, the uterus is the female reproductive organ where a baby grows. uterus and the outside of the body. Vulvar cancers are the 4th most common gynecological cancer. Vaginal cancers are very rare.

Risk Factors

There are several factors that may increase your chance of getting vulvar and vaginal cancers:

  • Had HPV for a long time
  • Have had cervical precancer or cervical cancer
  • Have vulvar or vaginal precancer
  • Have a condition that weakens your immune system
  • Smoking
  • Have chronic vulvar itching or burning

Prevention

Unfortunately, there is no screening for vaginal or vulva cancer, however there are ways to reduce your chances by:

  • Getting an annual pelvic exam
  • Getting the HPV Vaccine. The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers.
  • Practicing safe sex
  • Quitting smoking

Does a Pap test screen for vaginal and vulvar cancers?

No. The Pap test only screens for cervical cancer.

Signs & Symptoms

Pay attention to your body, and know what's normal for you.

Vulvar Cancer Vaginal Cancer
  • Itching, burning, or bleeding on the vulva that doesn’t go away
  • Changes in the color of the skin of the vulva (redder or whiter than normal)
  • Skin changes in the vulva (rash or warts)
  • Sores, lumps, or ulcers on the vulva that don’t go away
  • Pain in your pelvis (during urination or sex)
  • Vaginal discharge or bleeding that isn’t normal for you
  • A change in your bathroom habits. This includes:
    • Having blood in the stool or urine
    • Having more frequent or urgent need to urinate
    • Feeling constipated.
  • Pain in your pelvis (during urination or sex)

 

 

Last Updated: August 08, 2023
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