Follow-up after treatment for vulvar cancer

Follow-up after treatment is an important part of cancer care. Follow-up for vulvar cancer is often shared among different cancer specialists (oncologists), the surgeon and your family doctor. Your healthcare team will work with you to decide on follow-up care to meet your needs.

Don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment to report any new symptoms and symptoms that don’t go away. Tell your healthcare team if you have:

  • itching of the vulva
  • changes to the skin of the vulva
  • any new lump or swelling in the groin or pelvis
  • pain or bleeding

The chance that vulvar cancer will come back (recur) is greatest within 5 years, so you will need close follow-up during this time.

Schedule for follow-up visits

Follow-up visits for vulvar cancer are usually scheduled:

After surgery

  • every 3 to 4 months for the first 2 to 3 years
  • every 6 months for years 4 to 5
  • once a year after 5 years

After radiation therapy

  • after 1 month, every 3 to 4 months for the first 2 to 3 years
  • every 6 months for years 4 to 5
  • once a year after 5 years

During follow-up visits

During a follow-up visit, your healthcare team will usually ask questions about the side effects of treatment and how you’re coping.

Your doctor may do a physical exam, including:

  • a pelvic exam and a Pap test
  • examining the skin of the vulva and anus
  • feeling the lymph nodes in the groin and pelvis

Tests can be done as part of follow-up care. You may have:

  • a CT scan to see if cancer has spread to lymph nodes or organs in the pelvis or abdomen, such as the liver or bladder
  • a biopsy to check abnormal areas of the vulva
  • a chest x-ray to see if cancer has spread to the lungs

If the cancer has come back, you and your healthcare team will discuss a plan for your treatment and care.

Questions to ask about follow-up

To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about follow-up.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Vulvar Cancer. 2014:
  • BC Cancer Agency (BCCA) . Cancer Management Guidelines: Vulva .
  • Levine DA, Dizon DS, Yashar CM, Barakat RR, Berchuch A, Markman M, Randall ME. Handbook for Principles and Practice of Gynecologic Oncology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer; 2015.