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Bartholin's gland cancer

Bartholin's gland cancer is a type of vulval cancer. The term vulva means the external sex organs of a woman. The vulva is made up of two pairs of lips. The outer pair of lips is called the labia majora and the inner pair of lips is called the labia minora. Between these lips are two openings. One opening is the entrance to the vagina. The other opening is the urethra, which is the short tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.

At the front of the vulva is the small organ called the clitoris, which helps a woman reach a sexual climax.

The opening to the back passage, the anus, is also close to the vulva, but is separate from it. The area of skin between the vagina and the anus is called the perineum.

Diagram showing the anatomy of the vulva

Bartholin's glands are 2 small mucous producing glands at the opening of the vagina. This type of vulval cancer is extremely rare.

Vulval cancer itself is quite rare. Only about 1,100 cases are diagnosed in the UK each year. The most common site is the labia majora (about 50% of cases) and the labia minora accounts for 15 to 20% of cases. Cancer of the vulva involving the clitoris or Bartholin's gland is much less common.

Most Bartholin's gland cancers are adenocarcinomas. These are cancers that start from gland cells. But other types of vulval cancer can affect the Bartholin's glands.

This website has detailed information about cancer of the vulva, including a section on vulval cancer treatment. There are also details of support organisations.

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Updated: 13 December 2013