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Vulvectomy for Cancer Treatment

written by: AlyssaAst • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 4/5/2011

A medical procedure, known as a vulvectomy, can be used to treat cancer of the vulva and other skin abnormalities in the area. It requires patient preparation before the procedure and includes several risks.

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    A vulvectomy is a medical procedure often used to treat cancer of the vulva. It can also be used to treat skin abnormalities of the female genitalia. This medical procedure removes skin from the vulva area to treat cancer or other conditions. Patient preparation is needed for this surgery. There are several risks and complications that can occur from this procedure.

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    What is a Vulvectomy?

    There are two forms of a vulvectomy that can be used to remove cancer of the vulva and skin abnormalities. The location of the cancer or growth will determine which form of vulvectomy will be needed. The simplest version of this surgery removes only portions of the vulva. It produces fewer side effects and has lower risks associated with the procedure.

    The radical form of this procedure removes most of or the entire vulva. This form of surgery requires stitches and a longer recovery time. The risks and complications are higher when the radical form of the medical procedure is preformed. A drainage tube is usually required and a Foley catheter is needed after the procedure.

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    What Preparation is needed?

    Before this procedure is conducted, blood tests, urine tests, and x-rays are needed. You will need to be admitted to the hospital at least two and a half hours before the procedure is to commence. There can be no food or drinks consumed after midnight of the previous day.

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    What is the Recovery Process?

    After the surgery, bed rest is usually required, as well as possible hospitalization. The legs have to be exercised frequently to reduce the risk of blood clot formation. This will also improve blood circulation and muscle strength. Pain medication may be used after the procedure.

    There is usually a large dressing over the area of the surgery to keep the area clean. A Foley catheter may be kept in the bladder for several days to keep the area clean and dry also. A drainage tub may be placed in the incision to allow the excess fluids to drain properly. Special hygiene needs to be used to reduce the risk of infection.

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    What are the Risks of the Procedure?

    There are many risks that may occur from this procedure. The wound may open and have to be re-closed. Pain, swelling, and discomfort are common. Infection may also occur from the incision. Blood clots can form if you remain inactive for a prolonged period of time. Pneumonia is also a concern from this surgery. Infections of the urinary tract, burning while urinating, and frequent urination are common side effect of the procedure. Bleeding is also a concern after the medical procedure has been preformed.

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    “Vulvectomy- A Patients Guide” By Lynne Jolicoeur, RN The Ottawa Hospital

    “Vulvectomy” June 30, 2009 Blue Cross

    Photo: “Hospital Room” By Jynmeyer Stock.xchng