Vulvar cancer

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Non-cancerous tumours and conditions of the vulva

A non-cancerous (benign) tumour of the vulva is a growth that does not spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Non-cancerous tumours are not usually life-threatening. They are typically removed with surgery and do not usually come back (recur).

A non-cancerous (benign) condition of the vulva is a change to vulvar cells, but it is not cancer. Non-cancerous conditions do not spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body and are not usually life-threatening. There are many types of non-cancerous conditions of the vulva.

Non-cancerous tumours

Non-cancerous tumours of the vulva start in connective tissue and include:

  • fibromas, fibromyomas and dermatofibromas, which start in fibrous and muscle tissue
  • lipomas, which start in fatty tissue
  • hemangiomas, which start in the blood vessels

An excisional biopsy is used to diagnose most non-cancerous tumours and to rule out the possibility of cancer.

Treatment for non-cancerous vulvar tumours depends on the type of tumour and often includes complete surgical removal.

Cysts

Non-cancerous vulvar cysts are caused by a blockage of the ducts or glands in the vulva area.

Bartholin cysts are the most common type of vulvar cyst. They usually appear as a painless lump next to the vaginal opening near the anus. If an abscess develops the lump will be painful.

Skene’s cyst develops in the Skene’s glands, which are found next to the opening of the urethra. Symptoms include pain, problems urinating and urinary tract infections.

Some cysts disappear on their own and no treatment is needed.

Treatments include:

  • draining the cyst followed by antibiotics if an abscess develops
  • for cysts that persist or come back after they are drained – opening the cyst and suturing it so it remains open to drain and shrink gradually (marsupialization)
  • surgical removal for cysts that keep coming back
  • surgical removal of the cyst in older women because of an increased risk of vulvar cancer

Non-cancerous conditions

There are many non-cancerous conditions that affect the skin of the vulva. A symptom that is common to many of these conditions is itching of the affected area of the vulva. Common non-cancerous conditions of the vulva include lichen sclerosus, genital warts and squamous cell hyperplasia.

Lichen sclerosus is a chronic skin condition that most often affects the vulva or the area around the anus. Lichen sclerosus is usually treated with a corticosteroid cream.

Genital warts are growths of skin in the groin, genital and anal areas. Genital warts are caused by HPV infection. Treatments include medicine that is applied to the warts or removal with laser surgery, freezing (cryosurgery) or surgical removal.

Squamous cell hyperplasia is thickened areas of skin caused by increased growth in the number of cells. Treatments include avoiding soaps that irritate the skin and corticosteroid cream.

urethra

The tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.

In males, the urethra passes through the prostate and penis and carries semen as well as urine. In females, the urethra opens above the vaginal opening.

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