Treatments for recurrent vulvar cancer

Recurrent vulvar cancer means that the cancer has come back after it has been treated. The following are treatment options for recurrent vulvar cancer. Your healthcare team will suggest treatments based on your needs and work with you to develop a treatment plan.

Treatment for recurrent vulvar cancer depends on the location of the recurrence and how far the cancer has spread. A local recurrence is often treated with a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. There is no standard treatment for recurrent vulvar cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (called metastatic vulvar cancer).


You may be offered surgery for a local recurrence of vulvar cancer. The types of surgery are:

  • a wide local excision
  • a partial or complete radical vulvectomy
  • pelvic exenteration
  • the removal of the lymph nodes from the groin (inguinal lymph node dissection) on the same side of the body as the tumour or on both sides of the body, if it was not done to treat the original cancer

Radiation therapy

You may be offered radiation therapy for recurrent vulvar cancer. External beam radiation therapy may be used with or without chemotherapy:

  • to shrink the tumour, which may make surgery possible
  • to relieve symptoms of recurrent vulvar cancer that has spread to other parts of the body


You may be offered chemotherapy with radiation therapy for recurrent vulvar cancer. The types of chemotherapy drugs used in different combinations are cisplatin, paclitaxel, fluorouracil (5-fluorouracil or 5-FU, Efudex), mitomycin and bleomycin.

If you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment

You may want to consider a type of care to make you feel better without treating the cancer itself. This may be because the cancer treatments don’t work anymore, they’re not likely to improve your condition or they may cause side effects that are hard to cope with. There may also be other reasons why you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment.

Talk to your healthcare team. They can help you choose care and treatment for advanced cancer.

Clinical trials

Talk to your doctor about clinical trials open to women with vulvar cancer in Canada. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, find and treat cancer. Find out more about clinical trials.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Vulvar Cancer. 2014:
  • Klopp AH, Eifel PJ, Berek JS, Konstantinopoulos PA . Cancer of the cervix, vagina and vulva. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 72:1013-1047.
  • 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.
  • National Cancer Institute. Vulvar Cancer Treatment (PDQ®) Health Professional Version. 2017:

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

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The Canadian Cancer Society is not responsible for the quality of the information or services provided by other organizations and mentioned on, nor do we endorse any service, product, treatment or therapy.

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