About treatment for vulval cancer

The type of treatment you have is based on:

Before you have any treatment, your doctor will explain its aims. They will usually ask you to sign a form saying that you give permission (consent) for the hospital staff to give you the treatment.

A team of specialists will meet to discuss the best possible treatment for you. This is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT).

Your MDT uses national treatment guidelines to decide the most suitable treatment for you. Even so, you may want another medical opinion. If you feel it will be helpful, you can ask either your specialist or GP to refer you to another specialist for a second opinion.

You may be offered treatment as part of a clinical trial.

Surgery for vulval cancer

Surgery is the main treatment. For many women, surgery can cure the cancer. Surgery may also be used to remove some lymph nodes.

The aim of surgery is to completely remove the cancer. Your surgeon will try to keep the appearance and function of the vulva and nearby tissues as normal as possible.

Radiotherapy for vulval cancer

Radiotherapy may be used to shrink the cancer before surgery. You may also have radiotherapy after surgery. This is to make sure any remaining cancer cells are destroyed. You may also have radiotherapy if:

  • you cannot have surgery because the cancer is too close to other structures, such as the tube you pass urine from (urethra) or the muscle that controls your bowel
  • you have other medical conditions and cannot have a general anaesthetic.

Chemotherapy for vulval cancer

Chemotherapy is sometimes used before surgery to shrink the cancer. If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, or if it comes back after treatment, chemotherapy may be used on its own.

Chemoradiation for vulval cancer

Radiotherapy and chemotherapy can also be used together. This is called chemoradiation.