Woman in hospital

Vulval cancer

Vulva cancer affects about 55 people in Ireland each year, and usually affects women over the age of 60.

Cancer of the vulva is treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, depending on the type.

What is vulval cancer?

Cancer of the vulva is when the cells in the vulva change and grow in an abnormal way. A group of these cancer cells can form a tumour. It can develop in any of the female external sex organs that make up the vulva, but it’s most commonly seen in the outer lips (labia majora) and inner lips (labia minora). It occurs less commonly in the clitoris.

Vulval cancer is a slow-growing cancer and may develop over years. There are different types of vulval cancer, some of which are very rare.

Cancer of the vulva is a rare cancer. In Ireland, according to the NCRI (National Cancer Registry) there are around 55 cases a year. It usually affects women over the age of 60.

What is the vulva and what does it do?

The vulva is the area of skin between a woman’s legs. It refers to the external sex organs in women.

The vulva is made up of:

  • Two outer lips (labia majora)
  • Two inner lips (labia minora)
  • The clitoris at the front of the vulva. It helps women reach sexual climax
  • The urethra – the tube that drains urine
  • The vagina
  • The perineum – the area of skin between the vulva and the anus (back passage

All these female sex organs can be seen outside the body. In the groin area at the top of each leg are lymph glands. These are part of the lymphatic system that fights infection.

More information about vulval cancer treatment

Treatment for vulval cancer includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. For more information about treatments for vulval cancer, visit our treatment page. For specific treatment information use the links below.

Coping with vulval cancer treatment and side-effects

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Our cancer support section contains information and advice on coping with cancer for diagnosed patients and their loved ones.

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