By Darci Picoult
It began with a bump. The size of a pinhead. Innocuous. An innocuous little pinhead of a bump on my vulva. Given that my gynecologist said the bump was probably nothing, I laughed it off. Which, in turn, made my bump mad. Very mad. It wanted my attention. And so it grew. I smeared it in medicine. It grew more. More medicine. More growth. Hanukkah came. Then Christmas. A war raged between us. I went to battle in the middle of the night with salt baths and creams. Prayed for its departure...
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. Radiation therapy to the pelvis and groin is given if two or more groin nodes are involved.[2,3]
Neoadjuvant radiation therapy or chemoradiation of large primary lesions to improve operability, followed by radical surgery.[4,5,6,7,8,9,10]
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]
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. 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.