Survival statistics for vulval cancer | Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter
 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Statistics and outlook for vulval cancer

Outlook means your chances of getting better. Your doctor may call this your prognosis. With vulval cancer, the likely outcome depends on how advanced the cancer is when it is diagnosed (the stage). The grade of the cancer and your general health can also affect your prognosis.

Below, we have quite detailed information about the likely outcome of different stages of vulval cancer. The statistics we use are taken from a variety of sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check every section of our patient information. They are intended as a general guide only. For the more complete picture in your case, you’d have to speak to your own specialist.

We include statistics because people ask for them, but not everyone wishes to read this type of information. 

How reliable are cancer statistics?

No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. The same type of cancer can grow at different rates in different people. The statistics cannot tell you about the different treatments people may have had, or how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. There are many individual factors that will affect your treatment and your outlook.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating vulval cancer section.

 

 

What you need to know about the information on this page

This page has quite detailed information about the survival rates for different stages of vulva cancer. People ask us for this information but not everyone diagnosed with cancer wants to read it. If you are not sure whether you want to know at the moment, you can always come back to it later.

The statistics here are intended as a general guide and can't tell you what is likely to happen in your individual case.

 

Cancer statistics in general

There is a section explaining more about the different types of cancer statistics in the section on cancer statistics. Unless you are very familiar with medical statistics, you may find it helpful to read this before you read the information below.

Remember that statistics are averages based on large numbers of patients. They cannot predict exactly what will happen to you. No two people are exactly alike, and response to treatment also varies from one person to another.

You should feel free to ask your doctor about your prognosis, but not even your doctor can tell you for sure what will happen. You may hear your doctor use the term 5 year survival. It does not mean you will only live 5 years. It relates to the number of people in research who were still alive 5 years after diagnosis. Doctors follow what happens to people for 5 years after treatment in any research study. This is because there is only a small chance that vulval cancer will come back more than 5 years after treatment. They do not like to say these people are cured because there is that small chance. So the term 5 year survival is used instead.

Please note: There are no national statistics available for different stages of vulval cancer or treatments that people may have received. The statistics we present here are from international studies. They are pulled together from a variety of different sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts that check each section of our patient information. We provide statistics because people ask us for them. But they are only intended as a general guide and cannot be regarded as any more than that.

 

Overall outcome for vulval cancer

Overall, of all those women diagnosed in the UK with vulval cancer, almost 60 out of every 100 (60%) will survive for 5 years or more. These are relative survival figures. This means that statisticians have adjusted them for the general risk of people of this age group dying from something other than cancer. In other words, the survival rate is relative to the rest of the population.

As with many other types of cancer, your outcome depends on how advanced your cancer is when it is diagnosed. In other words, it depends on the stage of your cancer. 

Read more about the stage of your cancer

 

Vulval cancer outcome by stage of disease

About 90 out of 100 people diagnosed with vulval cancer (90%) will have squamous cell vulval cancer. Some doctors call this epidermoid vulval cancer, but it means the same thing.

Read more about squamous cell vulval cancer

Cancer of the vulva has a very high cure rate if it is found in the early stages. The size of the tumour and whether the lymph nodes contain cancer cells are important factors. But it is quite difficult to find reliable survival figures for different stages of many types of cancer. 

The figures below come from a large, international organisation of specialists in women's cancer. It is called FIGO (International Federation of Gynaecology Oncologists). They collected information on over 1,600 women with vulval cancer across the world. So, remember that these figures are international and not just UK.

  • For women with stage 1 vulval cancer, around 80 out of every 100 (80%) will survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed
  • For women with stage 2 cancer, around 60 out of every 100 (60%) will survive for 5 years or more
  • For stage 3 vulval cancer, more than 40 out of every 100 women (40%) will survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis
  • For stage 4 cancer of the vulva, almost 15 women out of every 100 (15%) will survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

It is important to bear in mind that these statistics relate to women who were diagnosed and treated more than 5 years ago. Survival rates may be better for women who are recently diagnosed, because they will benefit from any recent improvements in treatment.

Read more about the stages of vulval cancer.

 

Melanoma of the vulva

Melanoma of the vulva is very rare so it is harder to find reliable statistics. 

A Swedish study of 200 patients treated between 1960 and 1984 says that overall, almost 50 out of every 100 women (50%) will survive for 5 years or more. 

A more recent American study looked at 3 groups of people with melanoma. These were people with 

  • localised disease, which means melanoma that has not spread
  • regional disease, which means melanoma that had spread to nearby lymph nodes 
  • distant disease, which means melanoma that had spread to other body organs 

They found 

  • Around 75 out of every 100 women with localised vulval melanoma (75%) survived for 5 years or more
  • Around 40 out of every 100 women  with regional disease (40%) survived for 5 years or more
  • More than 20 out of every 100 women with distant disease (20%) survived for 5 years or more

Read more about melanoma of the vulva.

 

Other factors affecting outcome

There are 2 other factors that can affect your prognosis, apart from the stage of your cancer

  • The grade
  • How well you are overall

The cells are graded according to how like or unlike normal cells they are when looked at under a microscope. There are 3 groups (called grades 1 to 3), according to the size and appearance of the nucleus (control centre) of the cancer cells. 

Grade 1 cancer cells are the most similar to normal cells; grade 3 are the most unlike normal cells. Generally speaking, the higher the grade, the more quickly the cancer is likely to grow. 

Read more about grade.

Doctors also have a way of grading how well you are. They call this your performance status. You may see this written PS. A score of 0 means you are completely able to look after yourself. A score of 1 means you can do most things for yourself, but need some help. The scores go up to 4, depending on how much help you need. 

This is relevant to survival because overall, the fitter people are, the better able they are to withstand their cancer and treatment.

 

How reliable are cancer statistics?

No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. The same type of cancer can grow at different rates in different people for example. The statistics are not detailed enough to tell you about the different treatments people may have had. And how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. There are many individual factors that will determine your treatment and prognosis.

 

Clinical trials

Research evidence shows that taking part in clinical trials may improve outlook. No one is completely sure why this is. It is probably partly to do with your doctors and nurses monitoring you more closely if you are in a trial. For example, you may have more scans and blood tests. 

Read more in the trials and research section. And you can search for trials for vulval cancer on our clinical trials database.

 

More detailed statistics

If you would like to read more about survival rates and other statistics for vulva cancer, go to our CancerStats page:

https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/vulval-cancer

Rate this page:
Submit rating

 

Rated 4 out of 5 based on 21 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 4 December 2013