Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Cancer of the Vagina Treatment

Treatment for vulvar cancer varies with the cell type and stage of the disease. In the case of stage 0 disease, or intraepithelial neoplasia, the doctor will surgically remove the cancerous tissue.

Stage 1 or higher vulvar cancers may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy uses medications that either kill cancer cells directly, or interfere with their growth. Radiation therapy uses x-rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy delivers a focused beam of radiation to the cancer cells, in order to minimize damage to the surrounding healthy tissue.

For advances cases, chemotherapy is often combined with radiation therapy before surgery is performed.

Treatment options for vulvar cancer include:

  • Surgery for vulvar cancer:
    • The tumor is removed from the vulva or surrounding tissue
    • Occasionally, the entire vulva must be removed.
    • Vulvar reconstruction is possible in some cases
  • Radiation therapy for vulvar cancer:
    • Exposing cancer cells to radiation can kill them.
  • Chemotherapy for vulvar cancer:
    • The administration of medicines that kill cancer cells.

Cancer of the Vagina Questions For Doctor

The following are some important questions to ask before and after the treatment of vulvar cancer.

Questions to ask before treatment:

  • What are my treatment options?
    • Is surgery an option for me?
  • What are the risks associated with treatment?
  • Do I need to stay in the hospital?
    • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • What are the complications I should watch for?
  • How long will I be on medication?
  • What are the potential side effects of my medication?
  • Does my medication interact with nonprescription medicines or supplements?
  • Should I take my medication with food?

Questions to ask after treatment:
  • Do I need to change my diet?
  • When can I resume my normal activities?
  • When can I return to work?
  • Do I need a special exercise program?
  • Will I need physical therapy?
  • Will I need occupational therapy?
  • What else can I do to reduce my risk of vulvar cancer complications?
  • Will my children have this condition?
  • How often will I need to see my doctor for checkups?
  • What local support and other resources are available?

Cancer of the Vagina Specialist

Physicians from the following specialties evaluate and treat vulvar cancer:

Cancer of the Vagina Surgery

Surgical approaches for vulvar cancer include:

  • Laser surgery for vulvar cancer:
    • A laser is used to remove cancer cells.
  • Vulvectomy:
    • Skinning vulvectomy: removes the skin of the vulva that contains the cancer
    • Partial vulvectomy: removes less than the entire vulva
    • Simple vulvectomy: removes the entire vulva, but no lymph nodes
    • Radical vulvectomy: removes the entire vulva and the lymph nodes

Surgical treatment of vulvar cancer may require:
  • Wide local excision:
    • Removal of the cancer and some of the normal tissue around the cancer
  • Radical local excision:
    • Removal of the cancer and a larger portion of normal tissue or lymph nodes
  • Reconstructive surgery:
    • Grafting skin from another part of the body, in order to replace skin that was removed

Continue to Cancer of the Vagina Home Care

Last Updated: Jun 9, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Cancer of the Vagina References
  1. de Hullu JA, Oonk MH, van der Zee AG. Modern management of vulvar cancer. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2004 Feb;16(1):65-72. [15128010]
  2. Montana GS. Carcinoma of the vulva: combined modality treatment. Curr Treat Options Oncol. 2004 Apr;5(2):85-95. [14990203]
  3. Tyring SK. Vulvar squamous cell carcinoma: guidelines for early diagnosis and treatment. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2003 Sep;189(3 Suppl):S17-23. [14532899]
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