Vulvar Cancer Program

  • The vulva is the female external genitalia and entryway to the vagina.
  • Vulvar cancer is highly treatable, because regular annual exams will normally find the cancer in its earliest stages.
  • Vulvar cancer is relatively rare, and it usually develops slowly over a period of years.
  • The vulva is essentially epithelial skin so the main tumor types that affect this area are skin-related cancers.

If you have a lesion or other persistent symptoms that might point to vulvar cancer, ask your doctor for a biopsy so you can rule out cancer.

If you have already been diagnosed, see a specialist: an oncologist trained and certified specifically in gynecologic cancers.

At Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa, our highly experienced physicians and staff are dedicated to taking care of you, not just your cancer. Our clinicians are also top researchers, finding new and innovative treatments and therapies.

Treatment

  • Chemotherapy is limited to advanced diseases
  • Radiation therapy is sometimes used after surgery
  • Surgery is involved in the vast majority of cases to remove the cancer.
    • Types of surgery include:
      • Local excision
      • Laser surgery, including LEEP (loop electroexcision procedure)
      • Mohs surgery
      • Vulvectomy 

Why choose Holden for your care?

Patients of Holden Cancer Center benefit from a team-based approach that puts each patient at the center. At Holden, experts in specific cancer types—including a genetic counselor certified and specializing in cancer genetic counseling—is part of this team.

Holden patients also benefit from medical advances that take into account an individual’s tumor, genes, environment, and lifestyle to diagnose and treat their specific types of cancer. Known as personalized, or precision medicine, this highly specialized approach is part of Holden’s commitment to providing life-changing medical treatments and care.

Services That Set Us Apart

  • Team of five gynecologic oncologists, meaning you’ll have shorter wait times, more experience, knowledge, and input from more specialists. We are one of only two cancer centers in the state where patients are treated by board-certified gynecological oncologists.
  • Robotic and minimally invasive surgery for certain types of gynecologic cancers means small incisions, faster recovery, and less pain for the patient, as well as enhanced precision for the surgeon.
  • Mohs surgery for certain cases:
    • With a cure rate of up to 99 percent, Mohs surgery is a precise surgical procedure that progressively removes layers of cancer-containing skin until the area is cancer-free.
    • It spares normal healthy tissue, minimizes scarring, and can be used in areas requiring tissue-sparing like the vulva.
    • Our surgeons are educators and offer fellowship training in this highly specialized and complex procedure. 
  • Our clinical trials give you access to the most recent, advanced treatment options.
  • New infusion suite designed with patient input to create a comfortable, welcoming environment for chemotherapy treatments. Take our virtual tour.
  • Quad Cities location: In addition to our Iowa City offices, we also see patients in our UI Women’s Health–Quad Cities office.

"Comprehensive" NCI Designation

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only institution in Iowa to hold the prestigious designation of being a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), meaning we are rated in the top 4 percent of the approximately 1,500 cancer centers in the United States. A recent study published in the journal Cancer showed that patients treated at NCI-designated cancer centers have better survival outcomes than patients treated at non–NCI-designated cancer centers.

Our teams have expertise in clinical, laboratory, and population-based research. Our doctors and staff are on top of the newest developments in cancer research, treatment, and diagnosis.

The Power of Clinical Trials

A great deal of research is done behind the scenes in laboratories, long before clinical trials can even begin.

Clinical trials are research studies that test out the latest treatments and drugs that are not yet available to the public. These new treatments have the potential to improve your quality of life or increase your chances of survival.

See a full list and learn more about clinical trials at Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Support Our Mission

Our work is made possible in part by the support of donors through charitable giving. Friends of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center can become partners in our efforts to control and ultimately cure cancer. Learn how you can help us make a difference for cancer patients.

Multidisciplinary Team

We bring experts from different fields of medicine to work together as a team called a multidisciplinary oncology group (MOG). Because many patients require more than one form of treatment, our team meets regularly to discuss the best course of treatment and works together to design the best personalized plan for every patient.