Vulval Cancer

St. James’s Hospital (SJH) Gynaecological Cancer Care Centre is the largest provider in the Republic of Ireland of treatment for malignancy of the reproductive organs: cancer of the womb (uterus), cervix, ovary, vagina and vulva.  Our centre provides a regional and national service and is accredited by the NCCP (the HSE’s National Cancer Control Programme) for complex radical gynaecological surgeries. International standards of treatment apply, and the service is supported by research and teaching activities through Trinity College Dublin and the Cancer Trials Research Office at SJH.

Over 300 women with gynaecological cancer are referred to the centre annually. Cancer of the endometrium (lining of the womb) is the most common cancer, followed by cancer of the ovary/fallopian tube, then cervical cancer. Cancers of the vulva and vagina are less common. Women are referred by their general practitioners or by gynaecologists at their local hospital. A Multi-Disciplinary Team of doctors plans and provides the cancer care, and surgery is performed at SJH. Some of the treatments such as chemotherapy can be given in other local regional hospitals. Radiotherapy treatment is given at St Luke’s Hospital (SJH and in Rathgar, Dublin). When treatment is completed, long-term follow-up care is often provided at the patient’s local hospital.  Follow-up visits may go on for five years or longer.

What is Vulval Cancer?

The vulva is the area of skin between a woman’s legs and is made up of all the visible sex organs. Cancer of the vulva is rare. Around 40 women are diagnosed with it each year in Ireland. It is most likely to occur in women over the age of 60, but the number of younger women who are affected is increasing.

Usually, vulva cancer presents as an itch, abnormal growth or ulcer on the vulva skin. Diagnosis of cancer is made by taking a biopsy. A doctor takes a small sample of tissue from the abnormal area of the vulva. The biopsy is then sent to a laboratory to be examined under a microscope. After diagnosis, you will have blood test and X-ray.