It Wasn't Just A Yeast Infection: Woman Suffered From Never-Ending Itch For A Few Years, Turned Out It Was A Rare And Deadly Cancer
November 8, 2018 17:30 By Fabiosa
Vulvar cancer is less common than other cancers affecting the female reproductive system, and the awareness of this rare disease is lacking. And that’s a shame, because women who do get this cancer often don’t get early diagnosis and treatment and suffer from uncomfortable symptoms in silence.
Tracey Roberts, of Forfar, Angus, hadn’t heard about the disease before she herself got diagnosed with it. Now, her goal is to educate other women about this little-known cancer.
Tracey had been suffering from bouts of severe itch “down there” for two years. Sometimes, it was so bad that she couldn’t even sit. Her GP was convinced it was just a recurrent yeast infection and prescribed treatments, which did little to relieve the itch.
In addition to itching, Tracey also had heavy periods. The woman thought it was just what was normal for her and resigned herself to living with the uncomfortable symptoms. But her husband, Graham, had a feeling it was something serious and persuaded her to demand a referral to the hospital.
Tracey was diagnosed with adenomyosis and saw her gynecologist for a checkup several months later.
The gynecologist looked concerned. Writing for Take a Break Magazine, Tracey recalled:
She poked and prodded between my legs, then said, ‘The skin on your vulva doesn’t look right.’
She looked grave and added, ‘I’m sorry, but it could be vulvar cancer.’
For Tracey and Graham, it was a complete shock. They went home, and she looked up symptoms of vulvar cancer. Itching, pain, soreness, tenderness, bloody discharge, skin changes – Tracey had all of them, she wrote.
Much to Tracey’s relief, what she had was not cancer but a precancerous condition known as vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia. She was prescribed treatment and was told to watch for symptoms that could mean the condition developed into cancer.
A few months later, Tracey discovered a lump which was then biopsied and confirmed to be cancerous. She had a surgery to remove the lump and nearby lymph nodes. After the first surgery, the lump came back not once, not twice, but four more times.
Oddly, Tracey and her family got used to this endless cycle of her finding lumps and having subsequent surgeries. Writing for Take a Break Magazine, Tracey recalled her teen daughter’s reaction when the lump returned for the fifth time:
‘For goodness’ sake’, Cali said. ‘Again?’
This reaction felt better than watching her cry.
Tracey hopes her story can help other women become more aware of the cancer and less embarrassed of any uncomfortable symptoms they may have. She concluded:
I thought my itch was an embarrassing woman’s problem. Now I realize women need to speak up about issues with their vaginas. Otherwise, lives will be lost.
And I can only hope mine won’t be one of them.
In the comments to Tracey's story, people thanked her for sharing and wrote about their own stories:
How common is vulvar cancer, and what are its symptoms?
Vulvar cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the vulva, which is the outer part of female genitals.
The disease is quite uncommon. In the UK, about 1,300 women get diagnosed with vulvar cancer every year, according to Cancer Research UK. In the United States, 6,190 women were expected to be diagnosed with this cancer in 2018, according to the National Cancer Institute.
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- pain and tenderness;
- abnormal bleeding, i.e. bleeding that isn’t menstrual;
- skin changes affecting the vulva, such as thickening and color changes;
- a lump, wartlike bumps, or an ulcer.
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Vulvar cancer is often misdiagnosed, as it’s rare and its symptoms are similar to those of other, benign conditions. If you have symptoms such as those listed above, see a gynecologist. It’s very unlikely to be vulvar cancer, but you know, you can never be too careful!
This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for any harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.