Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) is a growth on the vulva that can sometimes progress to cancer. Monitoring or treatments, such as surgery, can prevent cancer from developing.
Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) is a growth of abnormal cells on the vulva. It’s not cancer, but it can lead to cancer. It’s sometimes referred to as a pre-cancer and can cause symptoms such as:
- painful sex
VIN doesn’t always require immediate treatment, but it will need to be monitored to ensure it doesn’t progress to cancer. When treatment begins, it can include surgery, laser treatment, and topical creams. You might also have treatments to manage symptoms.
VIN doesn’t always progress to cancer, but monitoring and treatment are important ways of preventing any risk of cancer development. Keep reading to learn more about this condition.
VIN is growth on the vulva. It’s a type of squamous lesion. It’s not cancer, but it can sometimes lead to squamous cell carcinoma. VIN is made of abnormal cells on the top layer of the vulva.
There are two types of VIN:
- Classic VIN: Classic VIN is also called usual VIN. It’s the most common type of VIN. It includes low grade squamous intraepithelial lesions and high grade squamous intraepithelial lesions.
- Differentiated VIN (dVIN): dVIN is less common and is seen more often with age. The most common age of people at the time of diagnosis is 68 years.
Can vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) progress to cancer?
VIN can progress to cancer. It doesn’t always, and, when it does, it can often can take years. About half of dVIN cases turn into cancer, and about
Because there’s a risk of progression to cancer, doctors often recommend treatment for VIN. This can include surgically removing the growth to ensure it never progresses to cancer.
Not everyone with VIN has symptoms. When symptoms do appear, they can vary and can overlap with symptoms caused by other conditions. Common symptoms include:
- pain in the vulva and surrounding area
- changes to how the skin around your vulva looks or feels
- itching around your vulva
- pain during sex
It’s a good idea to make a medical appointment if you have any of these symptoms, especially if you’ve had them for longer than about a week.
The exact cause of VIN is unknown, but there are some risk factors linked to the condition. These factors are associated with an increased chance of developing VIN.
Risk factors include:
- having an infection of human papillomavirus (HPV)
- having a condition that weakens your immune system
- taking medications that weaken your immune system
- having lichen sclerosus or another condition that affects the skin of your vulva
HPV is primarily linked to classic VIN, while conditions such as lichen sclerosus are linked to dVIN.
To diagnose VIN, a doctor will first discuss your symptoms with you. If they believe you might have VIN, you’ll have testing.
This could include an exam of your vulva, vagina, anus, and cervix. Tests might also include a type of endoscopy called a colposcopy that will help doctors get a clear look at the inside of the vagina, vulva, and cervix.
These tests can help rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms.
The primary test to confirm a diagnosis of VIN is a biopsy of the vulvar growth. This is done by numbing the area and taking a small sample of tissue so it can be examined in a lab. A biopsy is the only way to know if the cells are squamous cells and to confirm VIN.
The treatment of VIN depends on factors such as your symptoms, your estimated cancer risk, and where the VIN is located.
A doctor may recommend monitoring your VIN rather than pursuing immediate treatment. If this is the option you and a doctor choose, you’ll have your VIN rechecked regularly. At first, this might be every few months. Eventually, you might need to be checked less often.
If there are ever any changes, treatment can begin.
If you and a doctor decide to start treatment right away, options can include:
Surgery and other treatment can completely remove VIN, but it’s possible for it to grow back. About 25% of VIN cases recur. That’s why you’ll be monitored regularly if you’ve received a diagnosis of VIN, even after treatment ends.
A doctor might also teach you how to do self-exams to check for changes and signs that VIN has come back.
VIN is an abnormal growth on the vulva. It’s not cancer, but it’s sometimes thought of as pre-cancerous because it can progress to cancer.
HPV is linked to a higher risk of VIN, as is lichen sclerosis and a weakened immune system. VIN symptoms can overlap with many other conditions and include painful sex, itching, and changes to the skin of your vulva.
Since VIN doesn’t always progress to cancer, treatment isn’t always needed. Sometimes, monitoring the VIN, and starting treatment only if there are any changes, is the most appropriate plan. When treatment is needed, it can include surgery, laser treatment, and ointments and creams.
After receiving a diagnosis of VIN, monitoring and medical appointments are typically needed to ensure the VIN doesn’t grow back. With time, this will become less frequent.