How treatment is planned

In most hospitals, a team of specialists will talk to you about the treatment they feel is best for your situation.

This multidisciplinary team (MDT) will include:

  • a gynaecological oncologist (a surgeon who specialises in gynaecological cancers)
  • a medical oncologist (a doctor who specialises in treating cancer with chemotherapy)
  • a clinical oncologist (a doctor who specialises in treating cancer with radiotherapy and chemotherapy)
  • a radiologist (a doctor who specialises in reading scans)
  • a gynaecology-oncology specialist nurse (clinical nurse specialist), who will be your main contact and will make sure you get help and support throughout your treatment
  • a plastic surgeon (a doctor who specialises in reconstructive surgery)

The MDT may also include other healthcare professionals, such as a dietitian, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, psychologist or counsellor.

The type of treatment you have is based on:

  • the type of vulval cancer
  • its stage and grade
  • your general health
  • your personal preferences.

How treatment is planned

You should be treated by a specialist gynaecological cancer team. These teams are based in larger cancer centres, so you may have to travel for your treatment. They will meet to discuss and decide the best treatment for you. They will consider your own wishes too.

This multidisciplinary team (MDT) will include:

  • a gynaecological oncologist – a surgeon who specialises in gynaecological cancers
  • oncologists - doctors who specialise in cancer treatments such a radiotherapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy drugs
  • a gynae-oncology nurse specialist – a nurse who will be your main contact and will make sure you get help and support throughout your treatment
  • a plastic surgeon – a doctor who specialises in reconstructive surgery
  • a radiologist – a doctor who analyses x-rays and scans
  • a pathologist – a doctor who examines cancer cells under a microscope and advises on the type and extent of the cancer.

It may also include other healthcare professionals, such as a dietitian, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, radiographer, psychologist or counsellor.

After the team has met, your specialist will discuss your treatment options with you. You can ask questions about anything you do not understand or are worried about. You should also be given a telephone number for your specialist nurse or key worker who you can contact if you have any questions when you get home.

You can also talk to our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.

You need all the support you can get, so let your loved ones know. It is nothing to be ashamed of, although it is embarrassing. It is important that you have people in your corner.

Joolz


Giving your consent

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.

No medical treatment can be given without your consent.

Before you are asked to sign the form you should be given full information about:

  • the type and extent of the treatment
  • its advantages and disadvantages
  • any significant risks or side effects
  • any other treatments that may be available.

If you do not understand what you have been told, let the staff know straight away, so they can explain again. Some cancer treatments are complex, so it is not unusual to need repeated explanations.

It is a good idea to have a relative or friend with you when the treatment is explained, to help you remember the discussion.

You may also find it useful to write a list of questions before your appointment.

People sometimes feel that hospital staff are too busy to answer their questions, but it is important for you to know how the treatment is likely to affect you. The staff should be willing to make time for your questions.

You can always ask for more time if you feel that you can't make a decision when your treatment is first explained to you.

You are also free to choose not to have the treatment. The staff can explain what may happen if you do not have it. It is essential to tell a doctor or the nurse in charge, so they can record your decision in your medical notes. You do not have to give a reason for not wanting treatment, but it can help to let the staff know your concerns so they can give you the best advice.


The benefits and disadvantages of treatment

Many people are frightened at the idea of having cancer treatments, particularly because of the side effects that can occur. However, these can usually be controlled with medicines. Treatment can be given for different reasons and the potential benefits will vary depending upon your individual situation.

If the cancer is advanced and has spread to other parts of the body, treatment may only be able to control it, improving symptoms and quality of life. However, for some people in this situation the treatment will have no effect on the cancer and they will get the side effects without any of the benefit.

If you have been offered treatment that aims to cure the cancer, deciding whether to accept it may not be difficult. However, if a cure is not possible and the purpose of treatment is to control the cancer for a period of time, it may be more difficult to decide whether to go ahead.

Making decisions about treatment in these circumstances is always difficult, and you may need to discuss in detail with your doctor whether you wish to have treatment. If you choose not to have it, you can still be given supportive (palliative) care, with medicines to control any symptoms.


Second opinion

Your multidisciplinary team (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.

Getting a second opinion may delay the start of your treatment, so you and your doctor need to be confident that it will give you useful information. 

If you do go for a second opinion, it may be a good idea to take a relative or friend with you. You may also find it helpful to have a list of questions ready so that you can make sure your concerns are covered during the discussion.

Back to Making treatment decisions

Getting a second opinion

Your treatment will be planned using national guidelines, but you may still want another medical opinion.

Making a complaint

Talking to your healthcare team can make it easier to cope. If you find talking difficult, there are things you can do.