September is Gynaecological Cancer Awareness month
A recent questionnaire study conducted by Dina El-Hamamsy and colleagues in Manchester demonstrated that, out of 191 women surveyed only 9% labelled all anatomical structures correctly when faced with a diagram of the female genitalia.
Being unable to correctly name the parts of their genitalia may have significant implications for seeking help from doctors, understanding recommended treatment and ability to consent to it, and ability to follow instructions for after-care
What you need to know about Vulva Cancer:
The vulva are also referred to as ‘labia’ or the lips of the genitalia. More than half of vulva cancers occur in women over the age of 70years, and the leading cause of vulva cancer is exposure to Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV can lie dormant for many years before causing pre-cancerous then cancerous change in the skin. In addition to HPV, having a chronic inflammatory skin condition, such as lichen sclerosis, can lead to vulva cancer.
Vulva cancer will typically present with any of the following:
A lump on your vulva
Skin changes in the vulva, such as swelling, hardness, redness,or itch
Pain or bleeding
Pain on urination
It is important that you try to examine yourself to understand what is your normal. As a result of isolation rules during the Covid-19 pandemic many women found it difficult to access face-to-face review with a doctor. Vulva cancer can enlarge within a few weeks, and so it is important that when symptoms develop see your doctor early. Diagnosis is made on clinical examination and a biopsy.
Treatment typically requires surgery to the vulva, and often the groins. If the cancer is treated at an early stage 8 out of 10 women will still be alive at 5 years following treatment.