Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

What is vulvar cancer?

Vulvar cancer is a malignancy that can occur on any part of the external genital organs, but most often affects the labia majora or labia minora. Cancer of the vulva is a rare disease, which accounts for 0.5 percent of all cancers in women, and may form slowly over many years. Nearly 90 percent of vulvar cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. Melanoma is the second most common type of vulvar cancer, usually found in the labia minora or clitoris. Other types of vulvar cancer include:

  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Paget’s disease 
  • Sarcomas 
  • Verrucous carcinoma 
  • Basal cell carcinoma

What is the vulva?

The vulva is the external portion of the female genital organs. It includes:

  • Labia majora – two large, fleshy lips or folds of skin.
  • Labia minora – small lips that lie inside the labia majora and surround the openings to the urethra and vagina.
  • Vestibule – space where the vagina opens.
  • Prepuce – a fold of skin formed by the labia minora. 
  • Clitoris – a small protrusion sensitive to stimulation. 
  • Fourchette – area beneath the vaginal opening where the labia minora meet. 
  • Perineum – area between the vagina and the anus. 
  • Anus – opening at the end of the anal canal. 
  • Urethra – connecting tube to the bladder.