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vulvar cancer what is vulvar cancer

The vulva is the outer part of the female genitals. The vulva includes the opening of the vagina (sometimes called the vestibule), the labia majora (outer lips), the labia minora (inner lips), and the clitoris.

Around the opening of the vagina, there are 2 sets of skin folds. The inner set, called the labia minora, are small and hairless. The outer set, the labia majora, are larger, with hair on the outer surface. The inner and outer labia (Latin for lips) meet, protecting the vaginal opening and, just above it, the opening of the urethra (the short tube that carries urine from the bladder). The Bartholin glands are found just inside the opening of the vagina – one on each side. These glands produce a mucus-like fluid that acts as a lubricant during sex.

At the front of the vagina, the labia minora meet to form a fold or small hood of skin called the prepuce. The clitoris is beneath the prepuce. The clitoris is an approximately ¾-inch structure of highly sensitive tissue that becomes swollen with blood during sexual stimulation. The labia minora also meet at a place just beneath the vaginal opening, at the fourchette. Beyond the fourchette is the anus, the opening to the rectum. The space between the vagina and the anus is called the perineum.

Cancer of the vulva (also known as vulvar cancer) most often affects the inner edges of the labia majora or the labia minora. Cancer occurs on the clitoris or in the Bartholin glands less often.