A mother-of-two developed vulval cancer from her extreme skin condition - but her symptoms were dismissed for decades.
Clare Baumhauer, 44, from Erith, Kent, had itchy genitals since she was a teenager - but was told it was just thrush, herpes or cystitis.
After being too embarrassed to visit her doctor for years, she eventually sought medical advice when she was in her early 30s when she developed an ulcer.
It was caused by a tear slightly bigger than a 50-pence coin, and led to her being diagnosed with a tumour between her vagina and bottom.
But it took nearly 10 years before she was told the news last March. Doctors said it was caused by lichen sclerosis - which was mistaken for the host of conditions.
Despite now being in remission, endless bouts of radiotherapy to kill the cancerous cells triggered a 'tough' early menopause.
Speaking for the first time about her ordeal, Mrs Baumhauer said: 'I'd never heard of vulval cancer. Actually, I'd never heard of a vulva.
Clare Baumhauer, 44, from Erith, Kent, had itchy genitals since she was a teenager - but was told it was just thrush, herpes or cystitis
'I was horrified when I was diagnosed. I immediately thought, 'it's terminal, I have cancer. I am going to die".'
She said that sitting down had begun to hurt, as the sore ulcer had in fact doubled in size and had raised edges.
Mrs Baumhauer said: 'I thought that I would be sent to a GUM clinic and questioned about my sexual history.
'But I was actually referred to a gynaecologist to be examined – who consequently wanted to perform an urgent biopsy of my vulva.
'As a result, I had three punch biopsy in a short period of time, where I was eventually diagnosed with a skin condition called lichen sclerosis. This is what ultimately caused my vulval cancer to develop.'
Triggered an early menopause
She added: 'I'm delighted to be cancer-free. However, the menopause coming on so suddenly is tough.
It wasn't until she developed an ulcer, caused by a tear slightly bigger than a 50-pence coin, that she was diagnosed with a tumour between her vagina and bottom (pictured with her husband Matthew, 45, daughter Chloe, 18, and son Ben, 13)
'My hair has thinned and I've had hot sweats. But, compared to cancer, I can deal with it. I'm just glad I'm alive.'
Mrs Baumhauer added: 'I never missed a smear, and they all came back clear, so I thought it was just thrush.
'I had two Caesarean births with my daughter Chloe (18) and son Ben (13) and nothing was picked up then.
'I'd see adverts on television for thrush creams and cystitis medicines and they made me think that problems down there were common.'
Even when she developed a tear, initially small, in her late 30s, she was not unduly concerned.
She admitted: 'I thought it was from sex.'
It took Mrs Baumhauer (pictured) nearly 10 years before she was told the news last March, after a smear test even came back clear
Doctors even suggested it could be herpes, but it was ruled out when they found out she had been with Matthew for 26 years.
In March 2016, more than 35 years after she initially developed symptoms, she was referred to hospital by a different GP.
At Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, south London, doctors carried out a biopsy under local anaesthetic.
Her vulval cancer diagnosis
Just 10 days after the procedure, she found out