Skip to content

Staging and prognosis of vulvar cancer

Staging

Based on the test results, your doctor will be able to tell you the stage of the cancer. This is a way to describe its size and whether it has spread from the vulva to other parts of the body. In Australia, vulvar cancer is usually staged using the staging system from the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO).

Your doctor may also tell you the grade of the cancer cells. This gives you an idea of how quickly the cancer may grow. Low-grade (grade 1) cancer cells are slow-growing and less likely to spread. High-grade (grade 3) cells look more abnormal, and are more likely to grow and spread quickly.

Knowing the stage and grade of the cancer helps your health care team recommend the most appropriate treatment for you.

stage ICancer is found only in the vulva or perineum.
stage IICancer is found in the vulva and/or perineum and has also spread to the lower urethra, the lower vagina or the anus.
stage IIICancer is found in the vulva and/or perineum and in lymph nodes of the groin (it can be stage III whether or not it has spread to the urethra, vagina or anus).
stage IVCancer has spread to the upper urethra, upper vagina or more distant parts of the body.

Prognosis

Prognosis means the expected outcome of a disease. You may wish to discuss your prognosis and treatment options with your doctor, but it is not possible for anyone to predict the exact course of the disease in an individual woman. Instead your doctor can give you an idea about the general prognosis for women with the same type and stage of vulvar cancer.

In most cases, the earlier vulvar cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances of successful treatment. To work out your prognosis, your doctor will consider your test results; the type of vulvar cancer you have; the stage and grade of the cancer; whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes; and other factors such as your age, fitness and overall health. In some cases, the doctor will not have enough information to assess prognosis until after the surgery to remove the cancer.