Vulvar cancer is a rare cancer that originates in the outer part of the female reproductive system (the clitoris, vaginal lips and opening of the vagina). In 2018, the American Cancer Society estimates that 6,190 new cases will be diagnosed and about 1,200 will die from vulvar cancer in the U.S. This accounts for less than 1 percent of all cancers in women in the United States, and only 4 percent of cancers of the female reproductive system. The risk of vulvar cancer is increasing, however, since it is often associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV), the same virus that increases the risk of cancer in the cervix.
Role of the Gynecologic Oncologist
Gynecologic oncologists are trained in the comprehensive management of gynecologic cancer. As such, they coordinate care for women with vulvar cancer from diagnosis, to surgery, to chemotherapy, through survivorship and palliative care at the end of life. They serve as captain of the entire cancer care team of medical oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, registered nurses and genetic counselors, among others. Seek a specialist near you.
Patients, Caregivers and Survivors
As part of the overview section on vulvar cancer, learn general information, including risk factors and symptoms, and what to do if your doctor suspects you or your loved one has been diagnosed with vulvar cancer. SGO also has a useful toolkit for vulvar cancer survivors.
In October 2013 Choosing Wisely®, an initiative of the ABIM Foundation, released SGO’s Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question with specific tests or procedures that are commonly ordered but not always necessary in gynecologic oncology. SGO’s Choosing Wisely now has a number of patient resources and is mentioned in various online reference materials related to gynecologic oncology.