The road less travelled: Australian women's experiences with vulval cancer
John Wiley and Sons
School of Nursing and Midwifery
Despite advances in surgical treatments and the availability of more conservative treatment options, women treated for vulval cancer still experience significant complications such as urinary incontinence, lymphoedema, pruritus, sexual and intimacy issues. These issues can profoundly impact a woman's quality of life. The subjective experience of women diagnosed and treated for vulval cancer in the literature is limited, possibly due to its comparable rarity to other gynaecological and female cancers and because it was traditionally seen mainly in the elderly female population. Nonetheless, younger women are also being diagnosed with vulval cancer. This paper reports the findings from a qualitative study about twelve women's experiences with vulval cancer from diagnosis, through treatment and recovery. Women's feelings of isolation, their unmet information and support needs, physical concerns arising from vulval cancer, particularly after surgery, and the consequences for their body image and intimate relationships with partners, were highlighted within the data. The central findings from this study emphasise the need for further research to develop appropriate interventions for women with vulval cancer. It also highlights opportunities to improve clinical practice into the supportive care of women with this isolating disease.