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Carcinoma of the Vulva

Stehman, Frederick B. MD; Look, Katherine Y. MD

doi: 10.1097/01.AOG.0000202404.55215.72
Clinical Expert Series

The objective of this review is to summarize the published data about squamous carcinoma of the vulva and to identify promising areas for future investigation. Rather than the routine use of complete radical vulvectomy, a radical wide excision of the vulvar lesion to achieve at least a 1-cm gross margin appears sufficient to treat the primary lesion. A surgical assessment of the groin is required for all patients who have invasion greater than 1 mm. Ipsilateral groin node dissection can be performed through a separate incision. All the nodal tissue medial to the vessels and above the fascia should be removed. Sentinel node evaluation may be a significant step forward, but the false-negative rate is not well enough defined to consider this a standard. Patients with positive inguinal nodes at groin dissection should receive radiation therapy to the ipsilateral groin and hemipelvis. For those patients who have unresectable primary disease or if nodes are palpably suspicious, fixed, and/or ulcerated preoperatively, chemoradiation is the preferred option. Exenterative procedures may rarely be required. Chemotherapy for recurrent or metastatic disease has not been proven to be of value. Although survival rates are high for those with negative nodes, the morbidity associated with standard radical techniques has prompted innovation. Adequately powered trials aimed at further reducing morbidity without compromising survival are underway.

Surgical modifications have lessened the morbidity associated with radical surgery for vulvar cancer; patients with large primary tumors or gross lymphadenopathy should be treated with chemoradiation. Supplemental Digital Content is Available in the Text.

From the Section of Gynecologic Oncology, Department of0 Obstetrics and Gynecology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Continuing medical education is available online at

Corresponding author: Frederick B. Stehman, MD, Indiana University School of Medicine, 550 North University Boulevard, UH 2440, Indianapolis, IN 46202; e-mail:

Financial Disclosure

Drs. Stehman and Look are funded investigators of the Gynecologic Oncology Group.

© 2006 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists