Vulvar Cancer

Our gynecologists will treat your vulvar cancer with compassion and listen to your concerns about sexual function to create a personalized care plan for you.

Our gynecologists will treat your vulvar cancer with compassion and listen to your concerns about sexual function to create a personalized care plan for you.

Our gynecologists will treat your vulvar cancer with compassion and listen to your concerns about sexual function to create a personalized care plan for you.

Vulvar cancer develops in the folds around the vaginal opening, most often on the inner edges of the labia and sometimes on the clitoris or in the glands. Vulvar cancer is rare, with less than 4,000 women in the United States diagnosed with it each year, and accounting for fewer than 1% of cancers. It is highly curable if caught early.

Signs You Should Get Help for Vulvar Cancer

Talk to your doctor if you experience these vulvar cancer symptoms:

  • A lump or growth on the vulva
  • Vulva skin changes (color changes or wart-like growths)
  • Burning or itching in your vulva area that won’t go away
  • Bleeding unrelated to your period

If you have had the following you may be at risk for vulvar cancer:

  • Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN), a precancerous skin condition
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • History of genital warts

Vulvar Cancer Treatment at Rush

If you’ve been diagnosed with vulvar cancer, we understand you may have some deeply personal concerns, and we will work closely with you to discuss all of your treatment options to make the best choice that fits your needs and offers the best chance for recovery.

There are many options for treating vulvar cancer depending on the type and stage of your cancer, as well as your age and overall health.

  • Biologic therapies: Biologic therapies are treatments that are applied directly to your skin and use your own immune system to fight the cancer.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy: These treatments may be needed if the cancer cannot be completely removed by the surgery.
  • Surgery: Most women with vulvar cancer will undergo some kind of surgery to remove the cancer. Our gynecologic oncologists are experts minimally invasive surgery and use that approach whenever possible. There are several kinds of surgery, including the following:
    • Laser surgery: Doctors use a knife-like laser beam to remove cancerous tissue and tumors.
    • Ultrasound surgical aspiration (USA): Doctors break up the tumors into little bits by using small vibrations. They then wash away the pieces and remove them with a suction device.
    • Wide local excision: Doctors surgically remove the cancerous areas as well as surrounding healthy tissue.
    • Radical local excision: Doctors remove the cancer and normal tissue around it. They may also remove nearby lymph nodes in the groin to determine if the cancer has spread.
    • Vulvectomy: Doctors remove part or all of the vulva.
    • Skinning vulvectomy: Doctors take away the top layer of skin where the cancer was found. You may require skin grafts from other parts of your body to cover the areas where doctors removed the skin.
    • Pelvic exenteration: Doctors remove the lower colon, rectum, bladder, cervix, vagina, ovaries and sometimes nearby lymph nodes.

Rush Excellence in Vulvar Cancer Care

  • Access to new trials and treatments: As a principal member of the National Cancer Institute's Gynecology Oncology Group, Rush is a leader in gynecological cancer care and research, giving you access to clinical trials and treatments that may not be widely available.
  • Among the Best in the U.S. for Gynecology: U.S. News & World Report ranked Rush University Medical Center among the best in the nation for both gynecology and cancer care.
  • Minimally invasive surgical techniques: Your personalized treatment plan could include less invasive laser surgery and sentinel lymph node evaluation, which preserves healthy tissue, reduces recovery time and minimizes surgical risk.
  • Care of the whole person: Because we understand that undergoing cancer treatment impacts you physically and emotionally, we offer complementary therapies that can enhance your care by reducing your mind and body stresses. Our cancer supportive care offers acupuncture, biofeedback, guided imagery, counseling, massage therapy, yoga and more.