Most women who have cancer of the vulva are treated with surgery. The procedure your doctor recommends will depend on how advanced your cancer is.
Laser surgery is used to treat women whose disease is in the "pre-cancerous" stage, meaning that there are irregular cells present that probably would become cancer if not treated. This is a relatively simple procedure that uses a laser to remove the irregular cells.
Local excision is a surgery to remove the cancer plus a margin of healthy tissue. If your doctor recommends a "radical" local excision, a larger margin of healthy tissue will be removed and you may have lymph nodes in the groin removed as well.
The lymph nodes are removed so that they can be biopsied to determine if the cancer has spread. Some women are candidates for a sentinel node biopsy, in which as few as one or two lymph nodes are removed.
There are various types of vulvectomy, which is surgery to remove the vulva, or external sexual organs. Some procedures are more extensive than others, and will be recommended if your cancer is more advanced. In some cases, your doctor will remove lymph nodes in the groin as well, to check for the further spread of your disease.
If your surgery is fairly extensive, you may need plastic surgery and skin grafts. These procedures will be done by your gynecologic oncologist at the time of your cancer surgery.
If biopsies and other tests determine that your cancer has spread beyond the vulva, then your doctors may recommend adding radiation or chemotherapy or both to control the disease.
Surgery for SCCA patients is performed at University of Washington Medical Center by surgeons who provide care at SCCA and UW Medical Center.