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The psychosocial issues of women with cancer of the vulva

  • J. Boden (a1) and S. Willis (a1)

Cancer of the vulva is rare, it is a disease commonly diagnosed in elderly women, however, the incidence in younger women is rising. Many patients diagnosed and treated for vulval cancer face physical, social, sexual and psychological challenges. It is essential that therapy radiographers and members of the wider multidisciplinary team understand such challenges in order to provide patient centred care.


This review aims to highlight the key psycho-social issues experienced by patients with cancer of the vulva, identifying implications for practice in order to improve the holistic care for this patient group.


A search of English literature was performed using Medline, Pubmed, CINAHL and PsycINFO. Search terms included, vulva or vulval cancer, psychosocial, psychosexual impact and quality of life. Articles were excluded if they focussed on cancers other than gynaecological and vulval cancers.

Results and Conclusions

Although there are numerous reports on the psychological and psychosocial problems faced by gynaecological cancer patients; there was a paucity of literature pertaining to patients with cancer of the vulva, this is consistent with previous research. Studies show a significant negative, psychosocial impact experienced by these women. Common themes being isolation, loneliness, stigmatisation and lack of information for patients and their carers, themes spanning over three decades. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware of the findings from recent studies consistent with patient’s needs, highlighting that listening to women’s narratives on living with cancer of the vulva is essential if we are to help with the psychosocial issues experienced by these women. They underline a necessity to raise awareness among healthcare professionals and the general public, to improve holistic support for this particular group of women. This is particularly important in the radiotherapy setting as many of these women undergo lengthy courses of treatment and the appropriately trained therapeutic radiographer can play a vital role in addressing the physical and psychosocial problems.

Corresponding author
Author for correspondence: Janice Boden, Allied Health Department, Faculty of Health & Wellbeing, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield S1 1WB, UK. E-mail:
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