The tests and scans you have to diagnose vulval cancer give information about:
- the type of cell the cancer started in and where it began
- the size of the cancer and whether it has spread. This is the stage.
- how abnormal the cells look under the microscope. This is the grade.
In the UK, doctors usually stage vulval cancer according to the FIGO system. FIGO stands for International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics. There are 4 main stages in this system, from 1 to 4.
You might also be told about the TNM stage, or you may see this on your pathology report.
There are a number of different types of vulval cancer. The most common type is squamous cell carcinoma.
Vulval melanoma is a rare type of cancer. It develops from the cells in the skin that produce pigment. These are called melanocytes. You usually have surgery as a treatment for vulval melanoma.
The stage and grade of a cancer helps your doctor decide which treatment you need.
Stage 1 vulval cancer means it is only present in the vulva.
Stage 2 vulval cancer means the cancer has spread to nearby tissue.
Stage 3 is divided into stages 3A, 3B and 3C. In this stage, the cancer can be any size.
Stage 4 vulval cancer is advanced cancer. It is divided into stage 4A and 4B.