How is vulvar cancer diagnosed and treated?
How is vulvar cancer diagnosed?
Vulvar cancer is diagnosed through a biopsy. The doctor will take a sample of the lump or tissue in the affected area, and test it for pre-cancerous or cancerous cells.
There are two types of biopsies: an excision biopsy, which is a minor operation done under either local or general anesthetic, and a punch biopsy, in which an instrument that resembles an apple corer is used to remove a small piece of skin.
If you are diagnosed with cancer, you will undergo additional tests, which may include a thorough pelvic examination, a cytoscopy (examination of the bladder), a rectal exam, X-rays and CT or MRI scans. All of this is to determine if and where the cancer has spread.
What is the treatment for vulvar cancer?
The best treatment options for vulvar cancer depend on the stage at which it was caught. If you have just been diagnosed with VIN (pre-cancerous cells only), your doctor may recommend you have the affected area removed surgically, or that you have a laser treatment to target the abnormal cells.
The main treatments used for vulval cancer are surgery, radiotherapy and sometimes chemotherapy. Your specialist may suggest a combination of treatments. The treatment you need depends on the stage of the cancer when it is diagnosed.
Regardless of when the cancer is caught, you are likely to require some sort of surgery.
Depending on the stage of your cancer, you may need to have the entire vulva removed, or, if the cancer has spread to other organs, you may need to have a more radical operation that could include removing other nearby organs (ranging from the vagina, the urethra and rectum to the lymph nodes in the groin, to the bladder).
If you are not a good candidate for surgery, you will likely have to undergo intensive radiotherapy, sometimes in addition to chemotherapy. And if you do have surgery, your doctor may still recommend a course of radiotherapy either before or after.