Vulval cancer treatment at GenesisCare
We specialise in the latest techniques for treating all types of cancer, including vulval cancer. We have teams of gynaecological oncologists and other specialists who are experts in this type of cancer. They work together to evaluate the most up-to-date treatments and procedures so we can offer you the best options without delay.
The vulva is the name given to all the external genitals that surround the opening of the vagina. Cancer of the vulva (also called vulval cancer or vulvar cancer) is rare, with around 1,300 people in the UK diagnosed with it each year.
Treatment for vulval cancer typically depends on how big the cancer is, whether it’s spread and your general health. Diagnosing cancer of the vulva early often allows for more treatment options and better outcomes.
As the UK’s leading specialist independent cancer care provider, we offer you first-class treatments that will be managed by a team of specialists in vulval cancer. You can be reassured that they’ll work closely with you to identify the best personalised care plan for your diagnosis.
The main treatments for vulval cancer are surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
To help ensure the best outcomes are achieved for you, we combine your treatment with personalised integrative cancer care which is proven to improve outcomes. This includes a programme of exercise medicine and access to a wellbeing expert and holistic therapies such as counselling, acupuncture, massage and reflexology through our unique partnership with the Penny Brohn UK charity.
It is our commitment to offer world-class cancer care to all of our patients, to achieve the best outcomes possible.
How is vulval cancer treated?
Treatment options available for cancer of the vulva are:
- Surgery – the type of surgery you have will depend on how big your cancer is and how much of your vulva is affected
- Radiotherapy – high-energy radiation beams are delivered to destroy cancer cells while doing as little harm as possible to healthy cells
- Chemotherapy – anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs are used to destroy cancer cells
We understand that this may be a very worrying time for you. But please remember that symptoms you may be experiencing can often be caused by other conditions, not only vulval cancer. If you're concerned about vulval cancer symptoms, you should speak with your GP.
How is vulval cancer diagnosed?
You may undergo one or more of the following diagnostic tests if you’re showing signs of cancer of the vulva.
A doctor will examine your vulva for abnormalities. They may also check your vagina, cervix and sometimes your back passage (rectum) for any lumps, swelling or anything unusual.
A doctor or specialist nurse uses a microscope called a colposcope to look closely at your vulva.
A doctor may remove a small sample of tissue from your vulva with minimal discomfort using local anaesthetic. The tissue is then examined under a microscope for signs of cancer.
You might have blood tests to check your general health or help diagnose what is causing any symptoms you have.
CT, MRI and PET-CT scans
Your doctor may arrange for you to have a CT scan, MRI scan or PET-CT to produce more detailed images of the your body. This helps your doctor know where in the vulva the cancer is, and check if it’s present in other parts of the body, so they’ll be able to recommend the best ways to treat it.
You may have a chest X-ray to check your lungs and heart before surgery. You may also have one to find out if there is any cancer in your lungs.
Vulval cancer symptoms
The most common symptoms of cancer of the vulva are:
- Itching, burning or soreness of the vulva that does not go away
- Thickened, raised, red, white or dark patches on the skin of the vulva
- An open sore or ulcerated area on the vulva
- A mole on the vulva that changes shape or colour
- A lump, swelling or wart-like growth on the vulva
- Burning pain when urinating
- Bleeding, or a blood-stained vaginal discharge, that’s not related to periods
- Tenderness or pain around the vulva
- A lump in the groin
Please remember having one or more of the symptoms above doesn’t mean you have vulval cancer. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. But if you are concerned about cancer of the vulva, you should speak to your GP to arrange an appointment.
Surgery is the main treatment for vulval cancer. If your consultant recommends surgery for you, the type of operation you have will depend on the size and depth of your cancer, where the cancer is on your vulva, and where it may have spread to.
Our cancer specialists have close relationships with top surgeons from local and nationally renowned hospitals. They’ll work with them and other gynaecological experts to decide the best course of treatment for you. This can be arranged conveniently at one of our partner hospitals. You can then continue your other treatments at GenesisCare.
Our latest-generation machines are built to deliver highly targeted radiation beams. The accuracy of these treatments, together with the expertise of our teams, helps our patients achieve the best possible outcomes.
The type of brain and spinal cord cancer treatment your radiation oncologist recommends will depend on your diagnosis, if the cancer has spread to other parts of your body, your general health and personal preferences.
Radiotherapy uses targeted, high-energy radiation beams to destroy cancer cells.
You usually have radiotherapy after surgery to the vulva, or you may have it before your operation in order to shrink your cancer before surgery. Radiotherapy is also used to help control the symptoms of advanced vulval cancer or if your cancer has returned. And sometimes people only have radiotherapy when surgery is not appropriate or possible.
At GenesisCare, we’re the leading independent provider of radiotherapy in the UK and offer world-class expertise, state-of-the-art facilities and advanced radiotherapy techniques. Our latest-generation radiotherapy machines deliver highly targeted radiation beams with sub-millimetre accuracy, which makes them extremely effective and minimises the radiation dose to healthy tissues.
Our expert multidisciplinary teams (MDTs), consisting of oncologists, radiotherapists, and medical physicists, will oversee your radiotherapy treatment. By working closely together, they will put together a personalised treatment plan for you that ensures you always get the best possible care.
Radiotherapy for vulval cancer
Volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) is a modern radiotherapy technique that directs beams of radiation in an arc across the treatment area. Together with surface-guided radiotherapy (SGRT), it’s possible to precisely target areas of cancer, adjusting the beam and intensity of the radiation dose to allow for movements in the body and avoid healthy tissues.
Side effects of radiotherapy may occur when healthy tissues receive radiation, so using this technique helps to limit the dose to tissues and organs surrounding the tumour. At GenesisCare, we offer VMAT wherever possible, because it is widely recognised to be the highest standard of care currently available for patients needing this type of radiotherapy.
We also offer palliative VMAT radiotherapy for those living with advanced cancer of the vulva (stage 4). This type of treatment can help to shrink the cancer and control symptoms. We understand that fast access to palliative care is paramount, so we always do our best to provide treatment within 48 hours of a planning imaging scan.
Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) uses very focused high-energy radiation beams to treat tumours in five or fewer sessions, and is often used in place of surgery. If you’ve previously had radiotherapy to the pelvis, your consultant may suggest this as an option. This is because stereotactic treatment is so precise it can often mean re-treatment is possible.
Side effects of radiotherapy
No treatment is without side effects. Your doctor will explain these to you before you start your course of radiotherapy. They will also discuss how your treatment plan and supportive care can help to manage or minimise these side effects.
You can read more detail about our radiotherapy treatments below. If you’d like to find out more about your treatment options, contact us today for advice or to book an appointment.
At GenesisCare, we offer many of the newest drug therapies that can be used to treat and manage vulval cancer. Depending on how these treatments are provided, you may need to attend one of our private chemotherapy suites, which are staffed by our specialist nurses.
Our compassionate nursing teams are available 24/7 on a dedicated on-call telephone service, and they can answer any queries during your treatment. They can also provide advice about side effects and symptoms, and help to arrange appropriate medical care when needed.
There are different types of drug treatments, also called systemic anti-cancer therapies. Our expert teams continually review and assess new treatments to make these available to our patients as early as possible.
All GenesisCare centres have received the Macmillan Quality Environment Mark, which is awarded to cancer environments that go above and beyond to create welcoming and friendly spaces for people living with cancer.
Chemotherapy for vulval cancer
Chemotherapy uses cytotoxic (anti-cancer) drugs to destroy cancer cells. Your specialist may suggest you have it to shrink your cancer before surgery. They may also recommend you have chemotherapy in combination with radiotherapy (chemoradiotherapy) to help make your treatment more effective.
Targeted therapy for vulval cancer
Targeted (also called biological) therapies are a specialised group of drugs that are designed to attack or block specific processes in cancer cells that tumours depend on to survive and grow.
Immunotherapy for vulval cancer
Immunotherapies work by helping your body’s own immune system to recognise and fight the cancer.
Palliative care for vulval cancer
If your cancer has spread to other parts of the body, it may be called advanced, metastatic or stage 4 vulval cancer. At GenesisCare, your specialist may recommend palliative drug treatment for advanced vulval cancer to reduce the size and progress of your cancer and ease pain and other symptoms.
Personalised medicine for vulval cancer
For some advanced cancers, we use specialist tests, such as liquid biopsy or genomic testing, to understand the genetic make-up of cancer cells. This helps us to identify which drugs are available to work against specific genetic mutations in a cancer, allowing us to start effective treatment without delay.
There may also be opportunities to access clinical trials for the newest drug treatments for vulval cancer.
Side effects of drug treatment
No treatment is without side effects. Your doctor will explain these to you before you start your course of chemotherapy. They will also discuss how your treatment plan and supportive care can help to manage or minimise these side effects.
At GenesisCare, we do more than just treat your cancer. As part of our unique and integrative approach to cancer care, you can expect the best possible care and a personalised treatment plan that includes access to life-changing therapies which are proven to improve cancer-related outcomes. These therapies will be tailored to you to help you manage and cope with your cancer as well as the specific side effects of treatment.
Exercise medicine is a personalised programme of carefully planned and supported physical activity that has been shown to improve outcomes for cancer patients, enhancing quality of life and limiting the impact of cancer, such as by improving strength and reducing fatigue. One of our physiotherapists specialising in exercise for people living with cancer will provide a 12-week programme tailored to your needs and supported by our dedicated GenesisCare Exercise Medicine app. They‘ll work closely with you to monitor changes in your health and support you throughout the programme to help you get the best results. This is available at selected GenesisCare centres.
We also offer a wellbeing expert and holistic therapies such as counselling, acupuncture, massage and reflexology through our unique partnership with the Penny Brohn UK charity. A range of services is available to all small bowel cancer patients at any of our 14 UK centres.
Why choose us?
Why choose us?
GenesisCare is a leading private provider of cancer care, offering the latest innovations and techniques that are proven to be safe and effective. If you choose us for small bowel cancer treatment you will be under the care of a team of experts, including consultant oncologists, surgeons and dietitians. They will design a personalised care plan based around your diagnosis and preferences, with treatment starting within days if needed. Every patient is also supported through their journey with life-changing therapies, such as exercise medicine and psychological support.
Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, our priority is to continue providing the very best cancer care with meticulous measures in place to ensure our patients receive the treatments they need safely and without delay. You can find out more about our COVID-19 safety measures here.
We‘re proud that so many patients rate our care as excellent as we help them through their cancer journey. Find out more about the unique experiences of people who have had their cancer diagnosis or treatment at GenesisCare in our patient stories section.
GenesisCare works with many leading and experienced cancer doctors who share our commitment to providing excellent patient care
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