Vulvar Cancer Treatment
Treating women's cancers with expertise and compassion.
There are many treatment choices for vulvar cancer. The one that's best for you depends on things like:
- The type of vulvar cancer you have
- Lab test results
- Extent of disease (the stage)
- Your age
- Your overall health
- Your personal concerns and preferences, like what side effects you’ll find acceptable.
You should be treated by a gynecologic oncologist. This is a healthcare provider who has extra training to diagnose and treat gynecologic cancers.
In most cases, the goal of treatment is to cure the cancer. If this isn’t possible, your healthcare provider will try to control the cancer and manage any problems it causes.
It’s normal to want to learn all you can about vulvar cancer and your treatment choices. You will likely have many questions and concerns. Your oncologist is the best person to answer your questions about your treatment choices, how well treatment is expected to work, what the goal is, and what the risks and side effects may be.
Your oncologist may advise a certain treatment. Or they may offer more than one and ask you to decide which you’d like to use. It can be hard to make this decision. It’s important to take the time you need to make the best decision.
Vulvar cancer treatment options
Treatment for vulvar cancer is either local or systemic. You may have both.
Local treatments remove, destroy, or control the cancer cells in a certain place in the body. Surgery and radiation are local treatments. Most people with vulvar cancer are treated with surgery.
Systemic treatments destroy or control cancer cells throughout the body. When taken by pill or injection, chemotherapy (chemo) is a systemic treatment..
You may have just one treatment or a combination of treatments. They can include:
- Surgery is the most common treatment for vulvar cancer.
- Local excision removes the cancer and a large amount of normal tissue around it. Nearby lymph nodes in the groin may also be removed.
- Pelvic exenteration removes the lower colon, rectum, and bladder. The cervix, vagina, ovaries and nearby lymph nodes are also removed. Artificial openings (stoma) are made for urine and stool to flow from the body into a collection bag.
- Chemotherapy uses drugs that kill cancer cells throughout the body.
- Radiation uses high-energy X-rays or other radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing.
Talk to your doctor about these and other options for treating vulvar cancer. There may also be a clinical trial (research study) for which you are eligible. Researchers are discovering new therapies for treating cancer all the time, giving doctors new resources for your care.
Experts in treating vulvar cancer
Legacy Cancer Institute, located in Portland, OR, ranks among the nation’s best cancer programs. Our team features some of the region’s most recognized specialists who work together to diagnose and develop a personalized treatment plan for you. Find the right provider and treatment close to home.
Legacy Cancer Institute is accredited as an integrated network cancer program by the American College of surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC). Learn more about our quality cancer care.
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Working together for you
Our cancer experts work together with a common goal: delivering the right care for you.
A range of specialists collaborate regularly in meetings called tumor boards to discuss the best plan for your care. Your treatment plan is made just for you, depending on your general health, your age, your particular cancer and its growth.
Legacy Health collaborates with the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute to advance cancer care in our region. By working together, you benefit from the strength of both leaders in cancer care. As an integrated community cancer program for adults, we make sure that you have access to the latest treatments, technology and research available.
What happens next
Many cancer treatments can cause challenging side effects. Your cancer team is dedicated to helping you manage these issues in the best ways possible.
To see how well your treatment is working, some of the tests used to diagnose and stage your cancer may be repeated. Your doctor uses these tests to decide whether to stop, change or continue treatment based on the results. The tests can also determine if cancer has returned.
Whenever possible, we work to stop cancer. But when we can’t, we can often control it for a better quality of life, often called palliative care.
You are not alone. Legacy offers support throughout your cancer journey, as well as care for your emotional, social and spiritual needs.