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  • Staging, grading and prognosis of vulvar cancer

    Last reviewed October 2014

    Contents

    Based on test results, your doctor will tell you the stage of the cancer. This is a way to describe its size and whether it has spread beyond its original site. Knowing the stage and grade of the cancer helps your doctor recommend the most appropriate treatment.

    Staging

    Carcinoma in-situ (Stage 0) is early cancer. Abnormal cells are found only on the surface of the vulval skin.

    Stage 1 - Cancer is found only in the vulva and/or perineum. The affected area is two centimetres or less in size.

    Stage 2 - Cancer is only found only in the vulva and/or perineum. The affected area is more than two centimetres in size.

    Stage 3 - Cancer is found in the vulva and/or perineum and has also spread to nearby tissues such as the urethra, vagina, anus or lymph nodes.

    Stage 4 - Cancer has spread beyond the urethra, vagina and anus into the lining of the bladder or bowel. The cancer may also have spread to the lymph nodes in the pelvis or to other parts of the body.

    Grading

    Your doctor may also tell you the grade of the cells. This tells you how quickly the cancer may develop.

    Grade 1 (low grade) - The cancer cells are slow growing and are less likely to spread.

    Grade 2 (moderate grade) - The cancer cells are growing a bit faster and look more abnormal than healthy cells.

    Grade 3 (high grade) - The cancer cells look very abnormal and are more likely to grow and spread.

    Knowing the stage and grade of the cancer helps your doctor decide on the most appropriate treatment.

    Prognosis

    Prognosis means the expected outcome of a disease. You will need to discuss your prognosis and treatment options with your doctor, but it is not possible for any doctor to predict the exact course of your disease.

    The earlier vulvar cancer is diagnosed the better the chances of successful treatment and cure.

    Many women manage this condition for years with regular check ups with their specialists.

    Test results, the type of vulvar cancer you have, the rate and depth of tumour growth, how well you respond to treatment and other factors such as age, fitness and medical history are all important in assessing your prognosis.

    Information reviewed by: Prof Jonathan Carter, Head Gynaecologic Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, Professor of Gynaecological Oncology, University of Sydney, and Head Gynaecologic Oncology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; Ellen Barlow, Gynaecological Oncology Clinical Nurse Consultant, Gynaecological Cancer Centre, The Royal Hospital for Women, NSW; Jason Bonifacio, Practice Manager/ Chief Radiation Therapist, St Vincent’s Clinic, Radiation Oncology Associates and Genesis Cancer Care, NSW; Wendy Cram, Consumer; Kim Hobbs, Social Worker, Gynaecology Oncology, Westmead Hospital, and Chair COSA Social Work Group, NSW; Lyndal Moore, Consumer; Pauline Tanner, Cancer Nurse Coordinator, Gynaecological Cancer, WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network, WA.

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