Vulvar cancer is a rare form of the disease that can affect a woman’s labia, clitoris, mons pubis and perineum. This cancer represents less than one half of a percent of all cancers diagnosed yearly and usually forms slowly over several years.
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed vulvar cancer, our medical teams at Scripps Health can help. We provide comprehensive women’s health services with compassion and clinical excellence. In fact, Scripps has been ranked as the best in San Diego for gynecologic care by U.S. News & World Report.
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The Pap test (also known as a Pap smear) is screening for abnormal vulvar cells (known as vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia or VIN) and helps doctors learn if you’re at risk of vulvar cancer. It can be combined with a human papillomavirus (HPV) test. Diagnosing vulvar cancer may include certain tests:
- Pelvic exam may include a physical check of the vulva, uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder and rectum.
- Imaging tests can include computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, X-ray or positron emission tomography (PET/CT) scan.
- Vulvar biopsy involves removal of a tissue sample that is examined and tested by a pathologist.
Treatment of pre-cancerous vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) or vulvar cancer may include one or more of the following: surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
- Laser surgery can be used for removal of VIN abnormal cells within the skin of the vulva.
- Vulvectomy is the removal of all or a portion of the vulva. Reconstructive surgery by a plastic surgeon may follow the procedure.
- Pelvic exenteration is the most extensive approach and involves removal of the uterus, cervix, bladder, vagina, rectum and possibly part of the colon, depending on extent and spread of cancer.
- Lymph node dissection is the removal of lymph nodes and a margin of healthy tissue adjacent to the cancer.
Chemotherapy may involve one or more drugs in tandem. Chemotherapy is often used in combination with external-beam radiation therapy and it may also be recommended when the disease has spread beyond the pelvis or as a treatment to shrink localized tumors before a surgery.
Chemotherapy services are available at four Scripps hospitals, three Scripps Clinic locations, the Scripps Mercy Clinic, and the offices of Scripps-affiliated physicians.
Complementary therapies, including therapeutic nutrition and supplementation, acupuncture, yoga and massage therapy, can help manage cancer symptoms.