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Cancer Health Center

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

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

Stage IVA

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Standard treatment options:

  1. Radical vulvectomy and pelvic exenteration.
  2. Surgery followed by radiation therapy for large resected lesions with narrow margins. Localized adjuvant radiation therapy consisting of 45 Gy to 50 Gy may also be indicated when there is capillary-lymphatic space invasion and thickness greater than 5 mm.[1] Radiation therapy to the pelvis and groin is given if two or more groin nodes are involved.[2,3]
  3. Neoadjuvant radiation therapy or chemoradiation of large primary lesions to improve operability, followed by radical surgery.[4,5,6,7,8,9,10]
  4. For those patients unable to tolerate radical vulvectomy or who are deemed unsuitable for surgery because of site or extent of disease, radical radiation therapy may be associated with long-term survival.[11,12] When radiation therapy is used for primary definitive treatment of vulvar cancer, some physicians prefer to add concurrent 5-FU or 5-FU and cisplatin.[1,13,14,15,16,17]

Stage IVB

There is no standard treatment approach in the management of metastatic vulvar cancer. Local therapy must be individualized depending on the extent of local and metastatic disease. There is no standard chemotherapy for metastatic disease, and reports describing the use of this modality are anecdotal.[17] However, by largely extrapolating from regimens used for anal or cervical cancer, chemotherapy has been studied. Regimens have included various combinations of 5-fluorouracil, cisplatin, mitomycin-C, or bleomycin.[6,17,18] Given the advanced age and comorbidity of many patients with advanced or recurrent vulvar cancer, patient tolerance is a major consideration in the use of these agents. Physicians should offer eligible patients participation in clinical trials.

Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site

Current Clinical Trials

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

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