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Cancer Health Center

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Vulvar Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Stage II Vulvar Cancer

(Refer to the Treatment Option Overview section of this summary for a more detailed discussion of the roles of surgery, node dissection, and radiation therapy.)

Standard treatment options:

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  1. Radical local excision with bilateral inguinal node and femoral node dissection with a resection margin of at least 1 cm.[1] Radical local excision with a margin of at least 1 cm has generally replaced radical vulvectomy, and separate incision has replaced en bloc inguinal node dissection.[2] Large T2 tumors may require modified radical or radical vulvectomy.[3] Adjuvant local radiation therapy may be indicated for surgical margins smaller than 8 mm, capillary-lymphatic space invasion, and thickness greater than 5 mm.[4,5]
  2. Radical excision and sentinel node dissection, reserving groin dissection for those with metastasis to the sentinel node(s).[6]
  3. Some investigators recommend radical excision and groin nodal radiation therapy as a means to avoid the morbidity of lymph node dissection. However, radiation therapy may not achieve the same local control rates or survival rates as lymph node dissection in early-stage disease. A randomized trial to address this issue in patients with clinically localized vulvar disease was stopped early as a result of early emergence of worse outcomes in the radiation therapy group.[7,8] (Refer to the Role of Radiation Therapy section in this summary for more information.)
  4. For those few patients unable to tolerate radical surgery or deemed unsuitable for surgery because of site or extent of disease, radical radiation therapy may be associated with favorable survival.[9,10,11,12]

Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with stage II vulvar cancer. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


  1. Hacker NF, Van der Velden J: Conservative management of early vulvar cancer. Cancer 71 (4 Suppl): 1673-7, 1993.
  2. Hoffman MS, Roberts WS, Lapolla JP, et al.: Recent modifications in the treatment of invasive squamous cell carcinoma of the vulva. Obstet Gynecol Surv 44 (4): 227-33, 1989.
  3. Eifel PJ, Berek JS, Markman MA: Cancer of the cervix, vagina, and vulva. In: DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA: Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2011, pp 1311-44.
  4. Thomas GM, Dembo AJ, Bryson SC, et al.: Changing concepts in the management of vulvar cancer. Gynecol Oncol 42 (1): 9-21, 1991.
  5. Faul CM, Mirmow D, Huang Q, et al.: Adjuvant radiation for vulvar carcinoma: improved local control. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 38 (2): 381-9, 1997.
  6. Van der Zee AG, Oonk MH, De Hullu JA, et al.: Sentinel node dissection is safe in the treatment of early-stage vulvar cancer. J Clin Oncol 26 (6): 884-9, 2008.
  7. Stehman FB, Bundy BN, Thomas G, et al.: Groin dissection versus groin radiation in carcinoma of the vulva: a Gynecologic Oncology Group study. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 24 (2): 389-96, 1992.
  8. van der Velden J, Fons G, Lawrie TA: Primary groin irradiation versus primary groin surgery for early vulvar cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev (5): CD002224, 2011.
  9. Petereit DG, Mehta MP, Buchler DA, et al.: Inguinofemoral radiation of N0,N1 vulvar cancer may be equivalent to lymphadenectomy if proper radiation technique is used. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 27 (4): 963-7, 1993.
  10. Slevin NJ, Pointon RC: Radical radiotherapy for carcinoma of the vulva. Br J Radiol 62 (734): 145-7, 1989.
  11. Perez CA, Grigsby PW, Galakatos A, et al.: Radiation therapy in management of carcinoma of the vulva with emphasis on conservation therapy. Cancer 71 (11): 3707-16, 1993.
  12. Kumar PP, Good RR, Scott JC: Techniques for management of vulvar cancer by irradiation alone. Radiat Med 6 (4): 185-91, 1988 Jul-Aug.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: May 28, 2015
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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