If you have been diagnosed with vaginal or vulvar cancer, your doctor can refer you to a gynecologic oncologist, a doctor who has been trained to treat cancers of the female reproductive system. Different types of treatments are available for patients with vaginal cancer, including surgery, and even if the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may have chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that remain. Your doctor will work with you to create a treatment plan that may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of these treatments.
Surgery for Vaginal Cancer
Surgery is the most common treatment of vaginal cancer, including the following procedures:
- Laser surgery: A surgical procedure that uses a laser beam (a narrow beam of intense light) as a knife to make bloodless cuts in tissue or to remove a surface lesion such as a tumor.
- Wide local excision: A surgical procedure that takes out the cancer and some of the healthy tissue around it.
- Vaginectomy: Surgery to remove all or part of the vagina.
- Total hysterectomy: Surgery to remove the uterus and cervix.
Surgery for Vulvar Cancer
Surgery is the most common treatment for cancer of the vulva. The goal of surgery is to remove all the cancer without any loss of the woman's sexual function using one of the following surgical procedures:
- Wide local excision: A surgical procedure to remove the cancer and some of the normal tissue around the cancer.
- Radical local excision: A surgical procedure to remove the cancer and a large amount of normal tissue around it. Nearby lymph nodes in the groin may also be removed.
- Vulvectomy: A surgical procedure to remove part or all of the vulva.
- Skinning vulvectomy: The top layer of vulvar skin where the cancer is found is removed. Skin grafts from other parts of the body may be needed to cover the area.
- Simple vulvectomy: The entire vulva is removed.
- Modified radical vulvectomy: The part of the vulva that contains cancer and some of the normal tissue around it are removed.
- Radical vulvectomy: The entire vulva, including the clitoris, and nearby tissue are removed. Nearby lymph nodes may also be removed.
- Pelvic exenteration: A surgical procedure to remove the lower colon, rectum, and bladder. The cervix, vagina, ovaries, and nearby lymph nodes are also removed. Artificial openings (stoma) are made for urine and stool to flow from the body into a collection bag.