Cancer is complex — there is no routine vulvar cancer, nor is there ever a routine way to treat it.

The OSUCCC – James physicians are nationally and internationally renowned in research and patient care for their one particular cancer. Because of that expertise and understanding of cancer’s complexities and how it acts and reacts differently in each person, the very best outcomes — and the most effective means of treating cancer patients — come from a team approach.

At the OSUCCC – James, vulvar cancer patients have a team of experts that includes medical gynecologic oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, geneticists, nutritionists and more. Also on that team are vulvar cancer researchers who help sequence tumors to identify key molecules that fuel each patient’s cancer and who then develop drugs that target only those particular molecules. Many of our experts also help write the national clinical guidelines for treatments.

As one of only a few cancer centers in the country funded by the National Cancer Institute to conduct both phase I and phase II clinical trials, the OSUCCC – James offers patients access to more clinical trials than nearly any other cancer hospital in the country and to more of the latest, most targeted, most effective treatment options — many that are available nowhere else but at the OSUCCC – James.

There are several types of treatment for vulvar cancer. The OSUCCC – James team of subspecialists determine the best treatment for each patient based on his or her specific, individual vulvar cancer. Patients may receive one treatment or a combination of treatments.

Treatments Options

The following treatments are available to treat vulvar cancer:


Surgery is the treatment chosen most often for vulvar cancer. OSUCCC – James surgeons will choose a surgery that will preserve the greatest amount of tissue and cause the least amount of loss to a woman’s sexual function.

The different types of surgeries to treat vulvar cancer are as follows:

Laser Surgery

A surgical procedure in which a laser is used as a knife to remove any surface tumors. This type of surgery is often used for precancerous conditions such as vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia.


A surgical procedure in which any visible tissue and surrounding tissue is removed. These excisions may include wide local or radical local.

Ultrasound Surgical Aspiration

A surgical procedure in which the surgeon uses ultrasound to break up the tumor into smaller pieces that can be removed by suction.


A surgical procedure in which all or part of the vulva is removed. There are different approaches to the vulvectomy procedure. These may include a skinning vulvectomy (only the top layer of skin is removed), a modified radical vulvectomy (only part of the vulva is removed along with nearby lymph nodes) or a radical vulvectomy (the entire vulva is removed along with affected lymph nodes).


Often, along with removal of the vulvar tumor, a surgical procedure to remove the lymph nodes to which the cancer drains is performed. This is done through incisions over the groin (the area where the abdomen and leg meet), on one or both sides of the body. This can be performed as a sentinel lymph node procedure (with a smaller incision) in specific situations.

Pelvic Exenteration

A surgical procedure in which the vulva and any affected surrounding organs or tissues are removed. This may include the lower colon, rectum and bladder. The cervix, vagina, ovaries and nearby lymph nodes may be removed. If this type of extensive surgery is needed, the surgeon will create alternative ways for the collection of waste from the body.

Even after the cancer is surgically removed, patients may undergo additional radiation or chemotherapy treatment afterwards to kill any cancer cells that may have been missed. This lowers the risk of the cancer coming back.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses X-rays to reach and destroy cancer cells. Radiation is often used to treat specific areas of the body.

OSUCCC – James provides the most advanced radiation treatments for vulvar cancer, including:


Chemotherapy uses specialized drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by destroying the cells or by preventing them from making new cells. The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.


Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is a treatment that uses the patient’s immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body, or made in a laboratory, can be used to encourage the body’s immune system to activate and attack vulvar cancer cells in the body.

One type of immunotherapy used to treat in situ vulvar disease is a topical cream called imiquimod. This treatment is applied directly to the skin.

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

Vulvar Cancer Research & Clinical Trials

For cancer patients, clinical trials mean hope. Hope for a cancer-free world and for better, more targeted ways to prevent, detect, treat and cure individual cancers. Patients can enter clinical trials before, during or after starting their cancer treatment.

The OSUCCC – James has more than 500 open clinical trials at any given time, with some of the world’s latest discoveries available to clinical trial patients right here in Columbus, Ohio. In fact, patients have access to more cancer clinical trials here than at nearly any other hospital in the region as well as access to some of the most advanced, targeted treatments and drugs available.

The OSUCCC – James is one of only a few U.S. cancer centers funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to conduct phase I and phase II clinical trials on novel anticancer drugs. These trials go only to centers that demonstrate an exemplary capacity for research and clinical care, the expertise to deliver the latest in treatments and the infrastructure to interpret and track treatment results.

Additionally, Ohio State has nearly 300 cancer researchers dedicated to understanding what makes each patient’s cancer grow, move, metastasize or reoccur. Because of the OSUCCC – James’ NCI phase I and phase II approvals, these experts can move research discoveries into clinical trials and make them available to patients sooner.

If you have received a vulvar cancer diagnosis, or if you want a second opinion or just want to speak to a vulvar cancer specialist, we are here to help you. Call 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

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The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute

460 West 10th Avenue

Columbus, Ohio 43210

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