Mom Of Two Had A Persistent Vaginal Itch For 20 Years, Ended Up Getting Diagnosed With An Uncommon But Dangerous Cancer
Clare Baumhauer, a mom of two from Erith, Kent, had a strange symptom for two decades, but doctors couldn’t figure out what was causing it. It turned out to be a rare condition which eventually lead to cancer, and now Clare is raising awareness to help other women in the same situation.
For almost twenty years, the woman had been dealing with vaginal itching and burning. She saw several different doctors, all of whom thought she had herpes, vaginal yeast infection, or bladder infection. But in reality, her condition was none of these things.
In 2016, when the pain and itching became unbearable, Clare saw a different doctor. The new doctor finally gave Clare the correct diagnosis: she had vulvar cancer, brought on by an uncommon condition of unknown cause called lichen sclerosus, which went undiagnosed for years.
Clare was angry. How could it go undiagnosed for so long? But at the same time, she was relieved to finally know what the problem really was.
She had surgeries to remove the tumor and underwent radiotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells. The treatment led to early menopause, but it did its job to kill the cancer, and Clare was given the all-clear in the spring of 2017.
Clare hopes she can help other women by sharing her story. She said:
Just don't be embarrassed. Go to the doctors, and question why you are having to go back and forth.
My condition goes back years and I easily went ten times, they should have noticed there was a difference between my symptoms and thrush or cystitis.
As soon as I saw my surgeon, who is a dermatologist and gynecologist, he spotted it straight away, but the doctors and nurses obviously didn't realize.
It's not just affecting older people either, it's usually women between 70 and 90 but a lot more younger people are getting it now.
I've not missed a smear, they came back clear, so it is important to keep going and questioning them.
It was hard for me to tell my story, it is personal, but if I can help just one person it will have been worth it.
What are the symptoms of vulvar cancer and how can you lower your risk of getting it?
Vulvar cancer, which is cancer of the outer part of female genitals, is quite uncommon. So it’s not hard to understand why it’s sometimes mistaken for other problems, such as STIs or yeast infections.
Signs and symptoms of vulvar cancer overlap with those of more common conditions and include the following, according to Mayo Clinic:
- persistent itching;
- pain and tenderness;
- abnormal bleeding (i.e. any bleeding that isn’t menstrual)
- skin changes, such as color changes or thickening;
- a lump, wartlike bumps, or ulceration.
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To reduce the risk of developing vulvar cancer, the following may help:
- practice safe sex;
- limit the number of sexual partners;
- get the HPV vaccine;
- don’t smoke.
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Vulvar cancer is uncommon, but being extra vigilant doesn’t hurt. If you have any of the signs and symptoms listed above, see a gynecologist.
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.