A vulvectomy is done to remove the vulva or parts of it. The vulva is made up of the genitals located on the outside of a female’s body. These genitals are the clitoris, labia majora, and labia minora.
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This is done to remove cancerous cells from the vulva. It may be able to cure vulvar cancer. It can also be done to remove abnormal skin, like warts.
If you are planning to have a vulvectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, like:
Smoking may increase the risk of complications.
Discuss these risks with your doctor.
Before the surgery, your doctor may:
Before the surgery:
General anesthesia will be used. It will block any pain and keep you asleep through the surgery.
A nurse will insert an IV into your arm. This will deliver antibiotics. Your pubic hair will be removed. The nurse will also insert a catheter to drain urine from your bladder.
There are several types of vulvectomy surgery. The type you will have depends on what parts of the vulva and nearby tissue have been affected by cancer or abnormal skin. Examples include:
Once all affected areas have been removed, the doctor may need to reconstruct the vulva. If only a small amount of skin was removed, she may be able to stitch the remaining skin together. Sometimes, a skin graft is needed. Temporary drains may be inserted to remove extra fluids from the incision area.
About 1-2 hours
Anesthesia prevents pain during surgery. Your doctor will give you pain medicine after surgery.
The hospital stay depends on the type of surgery. You may go home the same day or up to a few days after. If you had any problems, you will need to stay longer.
While in the hospital, you may be asked to:
The catheter and drains may be removed within a week.
When you return home, you may be asked to do the following:
Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
The Society of Gynecologic Oncology of Canada
Women's Health Matters
After surgery for vulval cancer. Macmillan Cancer Support website. Available at: http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/Cancertypes/Vulva/Livingwithvulvalcancer/Aftersurgery.aspx . Updated June 1, 2009. Accessed November 26, 2010.
Dictionary of cancer terms. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/dictionary/?CdrID=443588 . Accessed November 26, 2010.
Dictionary of cancer terms. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/dictionary/?CdrID=443589 . Accessed November 26, 2010.
Gynecology surgery. Wellscape website. Available at: http://www.medical-travel-medical-tourism.com/gynecology/ . Accessed November 26, 2010.
Having your operation for vulval cancer. Cancer Research UK website. Available at: http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/type/vulval-cancer/treatment/surgery/having-your-operation-for-vulval-cancer . Accessed November 26, 2010.
Jolicoeur L. Vulvectomy—a patient's guide. The Society of Gynecologic Oncology of Canada website. Available at: http://www.g-o-c.org/en/patientadvocacy/cancers/vulvptguide.aspx . Accessed November 26, 2010.
Surgery for vulval cancer. Macmillan Cancer Support website. Available at: http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/Cancertypes/Vulva/Treatingvulvalcancer/Surgery.aspx . Updated September 1, 2009. Accessed November 26, 2010.
Vulvar cancer treatment. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/vulvar/Patient/page4 . Accessed November 26, 2010.
Which surgery for vulval cancer? Cancer Research UK website. Available at: http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/type/vulval-cancer/treatment/surgery/which-surgery-for-vulval-cancer . Accessed November 26, 2010.
Last reviewed February 2012 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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