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Vulvar cancer is a rare form of cancer that forms in the vulva’s cells and tissues. Early diagnosis of vulvar cancer, as well as prevention, can help you avoid extensive surgery. It forms slowly over years and most frequently affects the outer vaginal lips. The most common types of vulvar cancer are vulvar squamous cell carcinoma and vulvar melanoma.
At the UVM Medical Center, we use a team approach to diagnosing and treating vulvar cancer. You can be confident that you will receive the expert care utilizing the most advanced technology available.
Vulvar Cancer Care at UVM Medical Center
The best way to reduce the risk of vulvar cancer is to lower your risk for STIs (sexually transmitted infections), also known as STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Diseases such as HPV (human papilloma virus) and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) can be contributing factors to vulvar cancer. When you limit the number of sexual partners, use a condom every time you have sex and considering the HPV vaccine, you can help prevent vulvar cancer.
If you have vulvar cancer, the doctors at the UVM Medical Center will use their expertise to properly diagnose and treat your condition. Receiving care from us includes:
Teamwork - Vulvar cancer is best managed by a group of specialists that include gynecologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, nurses and patient support specialists. Our physicians and support staff work together as a team to provide expert care to our patients.
Technology - The team of specialists is highly experienced with the latest in technological advancements, including minimally invasive diagnostic procedures.
- Experience, Trusted Expertise - Our doctors are trained using the most advanced techniques in diagnosing and treating vulvar cancer. The team of doctors regularly dedicate part of their time to research and more effective means of discovering and treating cancer. You can be confident that you will receive the best care in the area at the UVM Medical Center.
Vulvar Cancer Diagnosis
Vulvar cancer occurs in the vulva, which includes all of the external parts of the female genitalia. The two most common types of vulvar cancer are:
- Vulvar Squamous Cell Carcinoma - this type of cancer starts in the thin, flat cells that line the surface of the vulva. Most vulva cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.
Vulvar Melanoma - this type of vulvar cancer starts in the skin cells of the vulva that make pigment (skin color).
The gynecologists and a team of support staff are trained on the most advanced diagnostic technology. Vulvar cancer diagnosis may include:
Colposcopy - a colposcopy is a procedure using a lighted, magnifying instrument (colposcope) to check the vulva for abnormal areas.
- Biopsy - sometimes a colposcopy includes a biopsy, which is removing a vulvar skin sample for analysis in a laboratory by a pathologist.
- Pelvic Exam - the doctor or nurse examines a woman’s reproductive and other organs in the pelvis including the vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and rectum.
- Imaging Tests
Treatments for Vulvar Cancer
Vulvar cancer treatment depends on the type and stage of cancer, as well as other factors such as your age, overall health and personal preferences. The treatment options available for vulvar cancer at the UVM Medical Center include:
- Excision - a procedure that cuts out cancer and a small amount of nearby, normal tissue to make sure all the cancer is removed. Sometimes this surgery is also called wide local excision or radical excision.
- Vulvectomy - a vulvectomy is a procedure that removes either all or part of the vulva. If needed, the surgeons may graft skin from another area of your body.
- Pelvic Exenteration - an extensive surgery that removes most of your pelvic organs if the cancer has spread or come back.
- Chemotherapy - chemotherapy treatment uses medications to kill the cancer cells.
- Radiation Therapy - radiation therapy uses high-energy beams, such as X-rays and protons, to destroy the cancer cells.