Vulvar Cancer

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Treatment Options

Vulvar cancer is cancer of the external female sexual organs. Most often, it is a type of skin cancer. It is a fairly rare disease, affecting only about one-half of one percent of all American women who are diagnosed with cancer each year. If detected early, before it has spread to the lymph nodes, the chances of a cure are quite high, 90 percent or better.

Here are some of the treatment choices you may be offered at SCCA. Remember, each woman's cancer is different, as are her circumstances, preferences, and beliefs. A treatment that works well for another woman may not be right for you.

Standard Treatment

Your treatment will depend in part on the results of a biopsy. Tissue samples from your cancer will be removed either in the clinic or during surgery, and examined by a pathologist. SCCA has a dedicated pathologist who only works with gynecologic cancer patients.

The examination of these tissues will show whether your cancer is likely to grow slowly or quickly, whether it is likely to recur, and whether it is likely to respond to certain types of treatment. The treatment recommended by your doctors will depend to a large degree on the "stage" of your cancer, meaning how far it has progressed at the time of diagnosis.

Women who come to SCCA for treatment of disease that is still in the pre-cancerous stage probably will be treated with an excisional biopsy or a laser procedure. If your vulvar cancer has progressed, or become "invasive," your doctors will most likely recommend that you have surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation therapy.

If you have fairly extensive surgery, you may need skin grafts and plastic surgery. Your gynecologic oncologist will do these procedures at the same time as your cancer surgery.

You may also want to consider participating in a clinical trial to gain access to treatments that are not otherwise available.


Surgery

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.

Chemotherapy

Your doctor may recommend chemotherapy to treat your vulvar cancer. You may have chemotherapy or a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy prior to surgery in order to shrink your cancer. Or you may have these treatments after surgery as adjuvant therapy.

Radiation Therapy

If you have vulvar cancer, your doctor may recommend that you have radiation therapy. You may only have radiation therapy or your may have radiation in combination with surgery or chemotherapy. Some women will be treated with all three therapies: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Treatment for Recurrent Vulvar Cancer

The treatment you receive for a recurrence of your vulvar cancer may include surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation--or a combination of these treatments. Your treatment will depend on a number of factors, including the type of treatment you have received in the past, and the symptoms you are experiencing with the new cancer.