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The compassionate gynecologic cancer team at UT Southwestern Medical Center delivers skilled, comprehensive care to women with vulvar cancer. 

As the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in North Texas, we deliver the best cancer care available today and push to discover new treatments. NCI designation means we offer patients the ability to participate in the broadest possible range of clinical trials, with access to potential therapies not available at other facilities.

Compassionate, Skilled Care

Vulvar cancer develops on the vulva, the external flesh on a woman’s body that surrounds the urethra, vagina, clitoris, and labia. Approximately 4,800 cases of vulvar cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. 

At UT Southwestern, our gynecologic cancer specialists have the experience patients need to treat vulvar cancer with compassion and skill. 

Types of Vulvar Cancer

There are several varieties of vulvar cancer:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: Arises in the smooth tissue that lines the vulva
  • Adenocarcinoma: Occurs in the fluid-producing cells in the vulvar lining
  • Melanoma: Develops in the pigment-producing cells in vulvar skin
  • Sarcoma: Arises in the soft tissue of the vulva
  • Basal cell carcinoma: Typically develops as a result of sun exposure, a rare cancer 

Symptoms and Diagnosis

A common symptom of vulvar cancer is an itchy lump or sore on the vulva. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain and tenderness
  • Irregular bleeding
  • Skin changes, such as color changes or thickening 

To diagnose vulvar cancer, an Ob/Gyn can perform a pelvic exam, order blood work, or collect a tissue sample to be evaluated by a pathologist. 

Treatments

Treatment for vulvar cancer depends on its characteristics and stage, as well as the patient’s overall health, preferences, and goals. Options include:

  • Surgery: Surgery is usually required to remove the cancer and a small amount of the surrounding tissue. Using the latest advancements in surgical technologies and tools, UT Southwestern offers a growing number of minimally invasive and laparoscopic techniques for surgically treating vulvar cancer in appropriate patients. Types of surgeries for vulvar cancer include laser surgery, excision, vulvectomy, and pelvic exenteration.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation can be administered in conjunction with chemotherapy to reduce the size of the cancer before surgery. The most common type of radiation treatment is called external-beam radiation therapy, which uses high-energy X-rays to deliver radiation that destroys cancer cells while sparing the surrounding healthy tissues. No radioactive sources are placed inside the patient’s body with this therapy.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy can be given with radiation therapy to reduce the size of the cancer before surgery. 

Other Services for Vulvar Cancer

Women with vulvar cancer might have concerns about if and how these treatments could affect their sexual function and fertility. Our experts will discuss all options with patients before treatment begins, and patients should not be afraid to ask questions.

Patients also are encouraged to take advantage of the many patient support services we offer, such as survivorship classes, nutrition counseling, support groups, integrative therapy, and more. 

Clinical Trials

Many patients qualify to participate in the gynecologic cancer-related clinical trials conducted at UT Southwestern to gain access to new medical treatments and further research of the disease. 

Patients should speak with their doctor about vulvar cancer clinical trials.

Related Conditions and Treatments

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