Chemotherapy for cancer of the vulva

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. Cytotoxic means toxic to cells. These drugs disrupt the way cancer cells grow and divide, but they also affect normal cells.

You can usually have the treatment as an outpatient, but sometimes you may need to stay in hospital for a few days.

You may be offered chemotherapy to help shrink the cancer before an operation. This is called neo-adjuvant chemotherapy.

You may sometimes have chemotherapy at the same time as radiotherapy. This is known as chemoradiation. Giving chemotherapy in combination with radiotherapy helps make the treatment more effective. There are different ways of giving chemoradiation. Your doctors will discuss your treatment plan with you.

Chemotherapy is often used to help control vulval cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (advanced or metastatic vulval cancer).

The main chemotherapy drugs used to treat vulval cancer are:

Other chemotherapy drugs may sometimes be used. Your doctor or specialist nurse will talk to you about the treatment and any potential side effects.

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Your feelings

You may experience difficult feelings while having chemotherapy treatment. Talking these over can be helpful.

Where can you have chemotherapy?

You usually have chemotherapy in a chemotherapy day unit or clinic. If your treatment is more complex, you may need to stay in hospital.