The vulva makes up the external genital organs of the human female, and includes the mons pubis (pubic mound), the clitoris, the clitoral hood, the uretha (urinary opening),  the labia majora, the labia minora, the bulb of the vestibule, the vestibule of the vagina, the cleft of venus, greater and lesser vestibular glands, the hymen, the vaginal orifice, and various glands and minor structures.

The word vagina is often used incorrectly to refer to the vulva, or female genitals in general. But, strictly speaking, the vagina is a specific internal structure within the vulva, and the vulva is the correct name given to the exterior genitalia only. Calling the vulva the vagina is akin to calling the mouth the throat.

Cancer of the vulva can occur on any part of the external female genitalia ie the vulva. The inner edges of the labia majora, and the labia minora are the most common areas for cancer to develop. Less often, cancer may also involve the clitoris, or the Bartholin glands (small glands, one on each side of the vagina) and it can, sometimes, affect the perineum.

Cancer of the vulva is a relatively slow growing cancer, and usually develops over some years. Before cancer develops there will be early, non-cancerous, changes in the cells of the vulva. These abnormal cells in the vulva are a condition called vulva intra-epithelial neoplasia, or VIN.


Some useful websites with more information and resources:


National Centre for Gyanecological Cancers

Sydney Gynaecological Oncology Group

Better Health Channel Vulvar Cancer

Cancer Council NSW Understanding Cancer of the Vulva

Queensland Centre for Gynaecological Cancer