What is the Melanoma of the Vulva?Melanoma of the vulva is a rare type of skin cancer that develops from melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin pigment in the skin. Although it represents a small percentage of all vulvar cancers, vulvar melanoma is a serious condition due to its potential to spread to other parts of the body.
SymptomsSymptoms of melanoma of the vulva can include:
- A new mole or change in an existing mole on the vulva. This could involve changes in size, shape or colour, irregular borders, or an asymmetrical appearance.
- A lump or area of thickened skin on the vulva.
- Itching, pain or bleeding from a spot on the vulva.
- Changes in the skin of the vulva, such as discolouration or the appearance of a shiny, pearly nodule.
Disease Aetiology (Causes)The exact cause of melanoma of the vulva is not known, but risk factors can include fair skin, a history of sunburn or frequent sun exposure, having many moles, and a family history of melanoma.
DiagnosisDiagnosis of melanoma of the vulva typically involves:
- Detailed medical history and physical examination.
- Dermoscopy: a non-invasive, diagnostic tool that dermatologists use to examine skin lesions.
- Biopsy: a procedure to remove a small sample of suspicious skin for examination under a microscope.
- Imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI to evaluate the extent of the cancer and to check for metastasis.
TreatmentThe treatment for melanoma of the vulva often includes:
- Surgery: The primary treatment is surgical removal of the melanoma and some of the normal tissue around it.
- Sentinel lymph node biopsy: A procedure to determine if the melanoma has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
- Immunotherapy: This type of drug treatment boosts the body’s immune system to fight cancer.
- Targeted therapy: These are drugs that target specific genes or proteins to help stop cancer from growing and spreading.