Treatment overview

Treatments for vulval cancer include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The type of treatment you have is based on:

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

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Staging and grading

The stage and grade of a cancer is used to describe its size and how quickly it may grow.

Cancer registry

Each country in the UK has its own cancer registry: information that helps the NHS and other organisations to plan and improve cancer services.