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.
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.