Vulvar Cancer Staging & Treatment

If you think or know you have vulvar cancer, you're worried about how this will impact your life and sexual health. At UVA Health, you'll find compassionate and experienced gynecologic oncologists. They're experts at vulvar cancer staging so they know exactly how best to treat it. 

They're also experts at removing the dangerous cancer or pre-cancer cells in this delicate part of your body.

Vulvar Cancer Staging & Why It Matters

Doctors use vulvar cancer staging to figure out if the cancer has spread, and if so, how far. Staging vulvar cancer helps determine how best to treat it. 

Vulvar cancer stages range from stage I (1) through IV (4). In general, the lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number means cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other organs. 

Doctors determine the vulvar cancer stage using different tools. These might include:

  • Physical exam 
  • Biopsy (taking a small sample of tissue)
  • Imaging tests 

Cancer of the vulva usually affects the outer vaginal lips. Less often, cancer affects the inner vaginal lips, clitoris, or vaginal glands. If caught at an early stage, we can treat vulvar cancer with high-tech tools that cause little to no harm to your vulva.

Vulvar Cancer Treatment at UVA Health

At UVA Health, we have expertise in both surgery and medical treatments for vulvar cancer found at any stage. 

Laser Surgery

If we find pre-cancer cells early, we can use laser surgery to burn away the diseased tissue.

Ultrasound Surgical Aspiration (USA) 

This safe, effective procedure can remove abnormal cells with precision. We can take away cancer with minimal damage to the surrounding tissue.

Advanced Cancer Surgery

If the cancer in your vulva has spread, you'll need a bigger surgery. This can range from cutting out the top layer of your vulva to removing sexual organs. 

Other types of surgery (vulvectomy) could remove your:

  • Labia, inner and outer
  • Clitoris
  • Deep tissue of your vulva

We may need to take out the lower colon, rectum, bladder, uterus, cervix, and vagina. 

Vulva Cancer in Lymph Nodes

Vulva cancer can spread to lymph nodes in your groin. This would mean taking out these lymph nodes, too. We'll first do a biopsy to see if cancer has spread to your lymph nodes. This will help us know if we need to remove the other lymph nodes.

Standard Therapies

Other standard cancer therapy can help, too:

Slow-Growing Cancer Connected to HPV Infection

Vulvar cancer usually forms slowly over many years. Sometimes, abnormal cells grow on the surface of the vulva skin for a long time. This condition, vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN), can lead to cancer.

Both VIN and an HPV infection can increase your risk for cancer of the vulva. Had abnormal pap smears in the past? Then you might also have a higher risk.

The good news is we can now prevent HPV with a vaccine.