Chemotherapy for vulvar cancer
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. The aim is to destroy cancer cells while causing the least possible damage to healthy cells.
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When and how is chemotherapy given?
Chemotherapy for vulvar cancer may be given:
- during a course of radiation therapy, to make the radiation therapy treatment more effective (known as chemoradiation)
- to control cancer that has spread to other parts of the body
- as palliative treatment, to relieve the symptoms of the cancer.
The drugs are given by injection into a vein (intravenously). You will usually have several treatment sessions, with rest periods in between. Together, the session and rest period are called a cycle. Treatment is usually given during day visits to a hospital or clinic as an outpatient. Rarely, you may need to stay in hospital for a night or two.
There are many different types of chemotherapy drugs. The side effects will vary depending on the drugs you are given, the dosage and how you respond. Chemotherapy for vulvar cancer may also increase any skin soreness caused by radiation therapy. Your medical oncologist or nurse will discuss the likely side effects with you, including how they can be prevented or controlled with medicine.
Common side effects experienced after chemotherapy for vulvar cancer include feeling sick (nausea), tiredness (fatigue), and a reduced resistance to infections. Most side effects are temporary.
Some people find that they are able to continue with their usual activities during treatment, while others find they need to take things more slowly.
For more on this, see our general section on Chemotherapy.
My partner’s support was invaluable during treatment and recovery. I know things were difficult – it’s not easy to see someone you love go through such a hard time. But we got through it together.Nikki
Video: What is chemotherapy?
Learn more about chemotherapy in this short video.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
A/Prof Alison Brand, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Ellen Barlow, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Royal Hospital for Women, NSW; Jane Conroy-Wright, Consumer; Rebecca James, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Suparna Karpe, Clinical Psychologist, Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Dr Pearly Khaw, Consultant Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Sally McCoull, Consumer; A/Prof Orla McNally, Gynaecological Oncologist and Director, Oncology/Dysplasia, The Royal Women’s Hospital, and Director, Gynaecology Tumour Stream,Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, VIC; Haley McNamara, Social Worker and Project Manager, Care at End of Life Project, Queensland Health, QLD; Tamara Wraith, Senior Clinician – Physiotherapy, The Royal Women’s Hospital, VIC.
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