Vulva Cancer - Medical Malpractice Lawyer

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Thousands of Canadian citizens are diagnosed with vulva cancer every year. The key to survival is early diagnosis and treatment which is often delayed due to misdiagnosis or misinterpreted test results. Vulvar cancer misdiagnosis is extremely common and failure by a healthcare practitioner that amounts to negligence is a matter of medical malpractice and entitles the victim to claim financial recompense for pain and suffering or the loss of opportunity for a cure. Our specialist medical malpractice lawyers deal with vulva cancer clinical negligence cases against doctors, nurses, technicians and other healthcare providers working in medical practices, clinics, hospitals and all other places where health care is dispensed. If you would like advice about vulva cancer misdiagnosis just contact our offices and a vulva cancer medical malpractice lawyer with call to discuss your potential compensation claim without charge and without further obligation. Our medical malpractice lawyers will give you their opinion on the liability of the negligent healthcare provider and will estimate the amount of the likely award of damages there and then.

Vulva Cancer Misdiagnosis Facts

About 400 women will be diagnosed with vulva cancer each year in Canada and about 100 of these women will die of the disease. Vulvar cancer involves cancer of the female vulva near the vagina. The rate of vulvar cancer is about 2.3 per 100,000 women with a mean age of 68 years. The rate of this type of cancer is highest in whites and lowest in Asians. The average age at time of death from vulvar cancer is 79 years old. This amounts to about 0.5 women per 100,000.

The survival rate depends on whether or not the disease is localized, regional or metastatic. The survival rate after five years in localized disease is 88 percent. The survival rate for regional disease is about 54 percent. The survival rate for distant cancer spread (metastatic disease) is only 16 percent after five years. Fortunately, sixty percent of all cases are discovered when the disease is localized and only 5 percent are found when the disease is metastatic.

The main signs and symptoms of this condition include itching of the vulva that doesn’t disappear on its own, pain in the vulvar area or a tender vulva, changes in the skin such as whitening and thickening of the skin and a lump or warts on the skin. Open sores are also possible on the skin.

No one knows exactly what causes vulvar carcinoma. There are, in fact, two types of vulvar cancer. The first is vulvar squamous cell carcinoma, which begins in the cells that line the vulva. This makes up most cases of vulvar carcinoma. You can also have vulvar melanoma, which begins in the melanocytes of the vulva. It is treated more like a melanoma than a vulvar cancer. Risk factors for getting vulvar carcinoma includes increasing age, being exposed to HPV during sexual activity, smoking cigarettes, being infected with HIV and having vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia—a precancerous condition of the vulva. If you suffer from lichen sclerosis, you have an increased risk for vulvar cancer. It causes itchy skin and thinning of the skin so that your risk for vulvar cancer increases.

The diagnosis of vulva cancer depends on a history and physical examination. Doctors can do a colposcopy examination that looks carefully at the vulvar tissue and biopsies suspicious areas. The diagnosis depends greatly on the biopsy, which can be an incisional biopsy (cutting and suturing the affected area) or a punch biopsy, in which the area is biopsied and the base is burned with cautery. Stitches are not needed in a punch biopsy. All or part of the lesion can be removed in the biopsy phase of the disease management.

After the doctor looks under the microscope and determines that vulvar cancer exists, the cancer is then staged to see if it has travelled to surrounding lymph nodes or distant body areas (metastatic). The doctor can examine the pelvis to look for cancer spread and a CT scan or MRI scan of the pelvis can look for areas of cancer in lymph nodes or in pelvic structures.

Stages of vulvar cancer include stage I cancer, which is localized cancer without any spread to lymph nodes. Stage II disease means the cancer has spread to the vagina, urethra or to the anus as a local spread of cancer. Stage III disease means that lymph nodes have become involved. Stage IV disease means the disease is metastatic to other body areas. Stage IVA disease is less severe than stage IVB disease.

Treatment of vulvar cancer depends on the stage of the cancer. Surgery is almost always done to remove all visible signs of cancer. A healthy margin of tissue is removed around the cancerous tissue to make sure all cancerous cells are removed (in localized cancer). A partial or radical vulvectomy may need to be done to remove all traces of cancer and precancerous cells. In a radical vulvectomy, the clitoris is removed as well. If the cancer is advanced, extensive surgery may need to be done to remove as much of the cancerous tissue as possible. Reconstructive surgery may need to be done to fashion some sort of pelvic floor in order to make the area as normal as possible after radical surgery. This may involve skin and tissue grafting. Surgery is also done to remove the nearby lymph nodes but this can cause severe fluid retention to the legs.

Radiation therapy and chemotherapy can be used to kill cancer cells that could not be removed by means of surgery. Occasionally, radiation is done prior to surgery in order shrink the tumor bulk so that the cancer can be removed more easily.

LEGAL HELPLINE: ☎ 855 804 7125

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here