Vulvar Cancer Treatments

Northwestern Medicine offers the latest treatment and therapy options for vulvar cancer. Often, your care plan will include a combination of treatments, which may include:


There are several surgical procedures used to treat vulvar cancers, including:

  • Partial vulvectomy: In this procedure, a portion of your vulva is removed, along with underlying tissues.
  • Radical vulvectomy: Through this surgical procedure, your entire vulva, including the clitoris and underlying tissues, are removed.
  • Lymphadenectomy: Also called an inguinal node dissection, a surgeon may remove lymph nodes in the groin area on one or both side of your body.
  • Pelvic exenteration: If your cancer has spread beyond the vulva to nearby organs, an extensive surgical procedure may be needed to remove your uterus, cervix, vagina, ovaries, bladder, rectum and nearby lymph nodes. This is a rare procedure that is only done when no other treatment options will be helpful.
  • da Vinci® Robotic Surgical System: This minimally invasive alternative to both open surgery and laparoscopy requires only a few tiny incisions, which can mean reduced pain and a faster return to daily activities.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses precision-targeted and controlled doses of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. Types of radiation therapy used to treat vulvar cancer include:

  • External beam radiation therapy: A target method, usually by a linear accelerator, to deliver a beam or several beams of high-energy radiation to the site of a tumor, while sparing surrounding healthy tissue
  • Brachytherapy: An advanced cancer treatment that delivers a highly concentrated dose of radiation near or in the tumor, while sparing the surrounding healthy tissue
  • 3-D conformal radiation therapy: A radiation therapy technique that sculpts radiation beams to the shape of a tumor
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT): A cancer therapy that "sculpts" the dose of radiation to conform to the unique shape of a tumor
  • Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT): Uses frequent images during a course of radiation therapy to improve the precision and accuracy of the radiation delivery
  • TomoTherapy®: A type of IMRT in which the radiation is applied slice-by-slice


Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Your care team may recommend one or a combination of the following chemotherapy medications to treat your vulvar cancer:

  • Cisplatin (with or without fluorouracil)
  • Mitomycin

Hormone therapy

Through a hormone receptor test, your physician can determine if the hormones in your body are causing cancer cells to grow. If so, hormone therapy can help prevent the growth, spread and recurrence of vulvar cancer.


Northwestern Medicine oncologists* offer leading-edge treatments for vulvar cancer. Our team collaborates at every step to develop a personalized treatment plan to best meet your unique needs.