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Vulvar Cancer

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of vulvar cancer is made through one or more of the following methods:

  • Medical history and physical examination: The patients may undergo a complete family and medical history evaluation to determine the presence of any risk factors for vulvar cancer. Your doctor may also perform a pelvic examination to determine any color change in the vulvar region. Further, the patients may be inquired about the occurrence of symptoms and the rate of their progression. If there is a suspicion of vulvar cancer, the patient is recommended to undergo further testing.
  • Colposcopic examination: If there are abnormal tissues present on the vulva or if the patient complains of bleeding that is unrelated to menstruation, the cancer specialists may perform a colposcopic examination to evaluate the vagina, cervix, and vulva in detail. The colposcopic examination involves using a colposcope, a thin tube with a video camera at the end. In certain situations, a solution of acetic acid is applied to the suspicious tissues to highlight them. A sample of any abnormal tissues may also be obtained for further examination.
  • Pelvic examination under anesthesia: If any abnormal tissue is found on the vulva and the oncologist desires to perform a thorough pelvic examination, it can be done under anesthesia. It helps determine if the abnormal tissues have spread anywhere in the pelvic region.
  • Cystoscopy: Cystoscopy is performed with the help of a cystoscope. It helps detect the spread of abnormal or cancerous cells to the urinary bladder or urethra. It is also used to obtain abnormal tissues for further evaluation. The procedure is performed under local anesthesia. However, general anesthesia may be required in some patients.
  • Proctoscopy: Proctoscopy is the procedure that involves the use of a proctoscope. It provides detailed information about any abnormal tissues in the rectum. If any abnormal tissue is detected during proctoscopy, it is taken out for further evaluation.
  • Intravenous pyelogram: This procedure is performed in patients in whom there is a suspicion of the spread of cancer to other organs. During an intravenous pyelogram, a contrast dye is injected into the veins of the patients. The X-ray of the kidneys, bladder, and ureter is taken as the dye moves in these organs. IV pyelogram test determines the presence of any blockage in these organs.
  • X-rays: X-rays detect the metastasis of vulvar cancer to other organs. For example, a bone x-ray is performed to detect cancer in the bone, while a chest x-ray detects the spread of cancer to the chest.
  • CT scan: CT scan in vulvar cancer assists in determining the shape and size of the tumor. It also helps in detecting the spread of the tumor to the lymph node or other organs.
  • PET/CT scan: The combination of PET and CT scan offers valuable inputs for diagnosing vulvar cancer. The oncologists develop the treatment plan based on the results of PET/CT scans as they determine the spread of cancer to lymph nodes and other organs with high accuracy.
  • MRI scan: Apart from detecting cancer in the pelvic region and lymph nodes, magnetic resonance imaging provides information about the spread of vulvar cancer to the brain and spinal cord.
  • Biopsy: Patients may experience certain symptoms that may indicate vulvar cancer. However, several other conditions mimic the symptoms of vulvar cancer. A biopsy is the only test that confirms the presence of cancer. It involves the removal of a small tissue sample and evaluating it under the microscope for detecting cancerous cells.


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