Vulvar Cancer

When diagnosed and treated early, vulvar cancer can be cured in over 90 percent of cases. Treatment for vulvar cancer typically involves surgery, radiation therapy and in some cases, chemotherapy. Our team of cancer specialists, radiation specialists and plastic surgeons work together to design the most effective treatment plan for your condition.


In many cases, vulvar cancer is treated with surgery. The type of surgery depends on the size, depth and spread of the cancer.

One commonly used form of surgery is called wide local excision, in which the cancer and some of the normal tissue around the cancer is removed. Another surgical approach is called a radical excision, which removes the cancer and a larger portion of surrounding tissue and, in some cases, the lymph nodes. After these procedures, patients may need to have skin from another part of the body added, or grafted, and plastic surgery to make an artificial vulva or vagina.

In addition, in some cases, laser surgery may be used, which uses a narrow beam of light to remove cancer cells.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses X-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body, called external beam radiation therapy. Another form or radiation therapy, called internal radiation, works by placing materials that produce radiation, called radioisotopes, through thin plastic tubes into the area where the cancer cells are found. Radiation may be used alone, before or after surgery.


Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Drugs may be given by mouth, or they may be put into the body by a needle in the vein or muscle. Chemotherapy is called systemic treatment because the drug enters the blood stream, travels through the body, and can kill cancer cells throughout the body.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.