For most of her life, Clare Baumhauer assumed her sore, itchy vulva was normal. “From when I was primary school [elementary] age, I was telling my mum that I was sore and itchy down there, and that it was burning when I went to the toilet,” the 45-year-old hospitality supervisor recalls.
“I remember her taking me to see my GP two or three times. He never looked at me, but I was given different creams and none of them helped. Even at that age, I quickly became reluctant to keep going back.”
After nearly 40 years of being misdiagnosed with everything from yeast infections to cystitis, early menopause, eczema, and even herpes, in 2016 Baumhauer received a devastating diagnosis of vulva cancer—caused, in her case, by a little-known skin condition called lichen sclerosus (LS).
“Lichen sclerosus is a chronic inflammatory condition of the skin, commonly seen in the vulva and perineum area,” explains Professor Dharani Hapangama, a spokesperson for charity Wellbeing of Women and consultant gynecological surgeon at Liverpool Women’s Hospital.