Making an educated treatment decision begins with the stage, or progression, of the disease. Staging cancer is one of the most important factors in evaluating treatment options and involves determining whether the cancer has spread, and if so, how aggressively. The stages are assigned a number between one (I) and four (IV), with stage I indicating the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes or other organs in the body and stage IV indicating advanced disease.
Our cancer doctors use a variety of diagnostic tests to evaluate vulvar cancer and develop an individualized treatment plan. If you have been recently diagnosed, we will review your pathology to confirm you have received the correct diagnosis and staging information and develop a personalized treatment plan. If you have a recurrence, we will perform comprehensive testing and identify a treatment approach that is suited to your needs
The staging guidelines developed by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) and the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) system are used to stage vulvar cancers. This common system allows doctors to communicate important information about the cancer in a standardized way. Vulvar cancer stages are based on three categories:
T (tumor): This describes the primary tumor size.
N (node): This indicates whether the vulvar cancer cells have spread to regional lymph nodes.
M (metastasis): This refers to whether the cancer has metastasized (spread to distant areas of the body).
Once the individual T, N and M components are scored, they are combined to determine the overall stage group.
Stage 0: This indicates an early-stage cancer restricted to the surface of the vulva. It may also be called "carcinoma in situ."
Stage I (stage 1 vulvar cancer): The cancer is growing in the vulva and/or the perineum (the area between the anus and the opening of the vagina). The cancer has not spread to lymph nodes or other organs in the body. This stage has two subcategories:
Stage II (stage 2 vulvar cancer): The disease has spread beyond the vulva and/or the perineum to the anus, the lower third of the vagina or the urethra. However, cancer cells have not spread to lymph nodes or other organs in the body.
Stage III (stage 3 vulvar cancer): This stage has three subcategories:
Stage IV (stage 4 vulvar cancer): This stage has two subcategories:
Next topic: How is vulvar cancer diagnosed?