After treatment for vulval cancer
After your treatment has finished, you’ll be asked to go back to the hospital for regular check-ups. How frequent these are and which tests you’ll have will depend on your individual situation. To begin with, check-ups may be every three months or so and will include a physical examination. Some women may have additional tests such as CT scans. The appointments will gradually become less frequent but will probably continue for several years.
Check-ups are a good opportunity to discuss any worries or problems you have. Go to your GP or your specialist doctor for advice if you have a symptom between your follow-up visits that you can’t explain, lasts more than a week, or that’s not getting better.
What if the cancer comes back?
Back to top
If the cancer comes back after treatment, further surgery can often remove all of the cancer. Sometimes radiotherapy may be used as well as surgery, or on its own.
Rarely, the cancer comes back in the groin or elsewhere. In this situation it’s more difficult to remove all of the cancer and surgery is less likely to be used. Treatment may be with radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or both. Your doctor will be able to discuss the possible benefits and disadvantages of any treatment with you.
One of the hardest things to cope with can be the feeling that the cancer and its treatment have taken over your life and that you’ve lost control. Many people feel this way, but over time they usually find things to do that can help them cope.
It’s common to have times when you feel too tired even to think about what could help. You’ll have good and bad days, and it’s important for you and your family to realise this.
An experience of cancer may help some people decide on new priorities in their lives. This may mean spending more time with family, going on a holiday, or taking up a new hobby. Just thinking about these things and making plans can help you realise that you still have choices.
Lifestyle changes – making positive decisions
Back to top
After your treatment you may want to think about making changes to your lifestyle and find out more about healthy living. Perhaps you already followed a healthy lifestyle before your cancer, but you may now want to be more focused on making the most of your health. There are things you can do to help your body recover. These can also help improve your sense of wellbeing and lower your risk of getting other illnesses.
Eat well and keep to a healthy weight
Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day) and eat more high-fibre foods. Cut down on red meat, animal fats and salted, pickled and smoked foods.
There's more helpful advice on nutrition in our section on weight management after cancer treatment.
This can be an important part of your recovery after treatment. It can improve your sense of wellbeing and build up your energy levels. It reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and bone thinning (osteoporosis). Talk to your cancer specialist or GP before you start. Start slowly and increase your activity over time.
You can read more about exercise and its benefits in our section on getting physically active.
Give up smoking
If you’re a smoker, speak to your doctor or call a stop smoking helpline for further advice and to find out where your local stop smoking service is.
Our section on giving up smoking has more information and tips to help you quit.
Try to stick to sensible drinking guidelines, which recommend that women drink less than two units of alcohol a day.
It’s common to have different and sometimes difficult feelings after cancer treatment. But as you recover and get back to your everyday life, these usually get easier to deal with.
The type of treatment you’ve had can have an effect on how you feel. Some women may experience ongoing side effects or a significant change in their appearance, which can be difficult to cope with emotionally. Talking to family and friends about how you’re feeling often helps. Ask your doctor or nurse for advice and support.
Some women find the impact of the cancer leaves them feeling depressed, helpless or anxious. Let your doctor or nurse know how you’re feeling, as there’s specialist help available to help you cope with these feelings. Your hospital consultant or GP can refer you to a psychologist or counsellor who specialises in the emotional problems of people with cancer.
Self-help or support groups offer a chance to talk to other women who may be in a similar situation and facing the same challenges as you. Joining a group can be helpful if you live alone, or don’t feel able to talk about your feelings with people you know. Not everyone finds talking in a group easy, so it might not be for you. Try going along to see what the group is like before you join.
We have more information about cancer support groups across the UK.
Many people get support through the internet. There are online support groups, social networking sites, forums, chat rooms and blogs for people affected by cancer. You can use these to share your experience and to ask questions, get and give advice based on your cancer experience.
Our online community is a social networking site where you can talk to people in chat rooms, blog your journey, make friends and join support groups.
Our section on life after cancer has been written for people whose treatment is over apart from regular check-ups. It gives useful advice on how to keep healthy and adjust to life after cancer.