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.
Reasons for Procedure
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:
Pain, numbness, or tenderness of the vulva
Wound not closing properly
Blood clots in the legs
Tightness or dryness of the vagina
Inability to have an orgasm
Chronic leg swelling
Reaction to anesthesia
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
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:
Skinning vulvectomy—removes the top layer of skin
Simple vulvectomy—removes multiple layers of skin and tissue
Partial vulvectomy—removes a part of the vulva, as well as some nearby tissue and lymph nodes
Radical vulvectomy—removes the entire vulva, including nearby tissue and lymph nodes
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
is needed. Temporary drains may be inserted to remove extra fluids from the incision area.
How Long Will It Take?
About 1-2 hours
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will prevent pain during the procedure. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Average Hospital Stay
The hospital stay depends on the type of surgery. You may go home the same day or up to a few days after.
At the Hospital
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:
Antibiotics to prevent infection
Medication to prevent blood clots
Getting out of bed and walking around
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
Washing their hands
Wearing gloves or masks
Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the same
Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
Not allowing others to touch your incisions
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
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
Signs of infection, including fever and chills
Redness, swelling, increasing pain, tenderness, a lot of bleeding, or discharge from the surgery site
Pain, redness, hot skin, or swelling in your legs
Burning or pain when urinating
Pain that cannot be controlled with the medications you were given
Persitent nausea or vomiting
Abdominal pain, chest pain, or trouble breathing
Surgical wound opens
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
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.
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