A vulvectomy is done to remove the vulva or parts of it. The vulva is made up of the genital structures located on the outside of a female’s body. These structures are the clitoris, labia majora, and labia minora.
This is done to remove cancerous cells from the vulva. It may be able to cure vulvar cancer. It can also be done to remove abnormal skin, like warts.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
Before the surgery, your doctor may:
Before the surgery:
General anesthesia —you will be asleep during the procedure
There are several types of vulvectomy surgery. The type you will have depends on what parts of the vulva and nearby tissue have been affected by cancer or abnormal skin. Examples include:
Once all affected areas have been removed, the doctor may need to reconstruct the vulva. If only a small amount of skin was removed, the remaining skin may be able to be stitched together. Sometimes, a skin graft is needed. Temporary drains may be inserted to remove extra fluids from the incision area.
About 1-2 hours
Anesthesia will prevent pain during the procedure. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
The hospital stay depends on the type of surgery. You may go home the same day or up to a few days after.
Right after the procedure, you will be in a recovery room where your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing will be monitored. Recovery may also include:
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
Self-care measures and medications will help ease swelling and pain. Physical and sexual activity may be restricted during this time, but complete rest is not necessary. You may be advised to do exercises to maintain strength and promote healing. To prevent infection at the incision site, follow instructions on how to clean and care for the wound.
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Cancer Society
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Canadian Cancer Society
Women's Health Matters—Women's College Hospital
Obstetric and gynecologic surgery. Encyclopedia of Surgery website. Available at: http://www.surgeryencyclopedia.com/La-Pa/Obstetric-and-Gynecologic-Surgery.html. Accessed January 8, 2018.
Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at:https://www.cancer.gov/types/vulvar/patient/vulvar-treatment-pdq#link/_49. Updated October 13, 2017. Accessed January 8, 2018.
Vulval cancer surgery. Cancer Research UK website. Available at: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/vulval-cancer/treatment/surgery. Updated March 16, 2016. Accessed January 8, 2018.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP