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Video

Dr Dawn:
Each year in the UK there are about 1000 diagnosed cases of vulval cancer. It generally affects women after the menopause and most cases occur after the age of 65. Relative to other cancers, vulval cancer is rare but there are other vulval conditions that affect women of all ages and they are most easily, safely and successfully treated when discovered early so vulval self-examination is important.

You should be checking your vulva monthly. However, don’t self-examine if you’ve recently had a baby, a miscarriage of any other vaginal procedure as you’re open to infection. Wait until you are fully healed.

To self-examine, sit in a well-lit area that is comfortable like a bed, make sure your hands are clean and don’t apply any vaginal creams before self-examining as this may interfere with your ability to detect abnormalities. Hold a mirror in one hand and use the other hand to separate and expose the parts of the vulva surrounding the opening to the vagina. Can you see OK?

Patient: Yes thank you

Dr Dawn:
First you want to check the area above the pubic bone where the pubic hair is. This is the Mons Pubis and you are looking carefully for any lumps or bumps, ulcers, warts, changes in skin colour particularly anything that is in your white area or even red or dark areas. And then you need to use your fingers to feel for any lumps that you may not be able to see, that one feels fine… And then you are going to move down to check the clitoris and the surrounding area. Now I’m moving down towards the vaginal opening and I’m checking small folds of skin to the left and right. These are the Labia Minora and after checking the small folds of skin we go to the bigger folds next to them, the Labia Majora. Moving down again we check the area between the vagina and the anus. Again you’re looking and feeling and lastly check the area surrounding the anal opening as vulval disease can go down as far as that. So would you like to have a go at self-examining?

If you’ve noticed any lumps, are experiencing any itching or pain, feel a burning sensation when passing urine, or if you have any unusual discharge or you bleed after sex, between periods or after the menopause, make an appointment to see your doctor.

Some symptoms can be from a minor condition, but sometimes they can be indicators of something more serious so it’s best to get any symptoms checked out.

There’s no screening programme for vulval cancer but you should be having routine cervical smear tests so make sure you go as the nurse or doctor should examine your vulva at the same time and with you checking every month too any symptoms that occur should be detected quickly.

Don’t be shy about checking your vulva. It’s as important as self-examining your breasts or for a man to self-examine his testicles and if you do discover a lump or any other symptom, don’t put off seeing your doctor. Untreated vulval cancer can spread but if it’s caught early the better the treatment and the better the outcome.

Read the video transcript

How To Check Your Vulva

Around 1000 cases of vulval cancer are diagnosed every year in the UK, mainly in women who have been through the menopause. However, there are also a range of other vulval conditions that affect all women – highlighting how important it is to self-check your vulva. Although it may seem daunting if you haven’t self-checked before, Dr Dawn Harper’s guide will show you exactly how to conduct the check – so grab that mirror!

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Comments and Questions

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Please note: Unfortunately Channel 4 cannot respond to individual inquiries. If you have any concerns, you can check out NHS Choices, but ultimately it is always best to check with a health professional.

I have these small red bumps on my vagina after shaving, the shaver was kinda rusty when I looked at it after... I'm 13 an I'm not sexually active...I am aware of all the types on cancer and stuff so I'm really scared can you guys help me?? I just wanna know what it is and if I should get it checked out. Help!! ):





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I'm 15 and my boyfriend tried to take my virginity but said there was something in the way and when he fingered me he found a smooth lump I don't hurt to touch but when you push it I become really sore and makes having intercourse really hard and id like to know if there's anything I can do to get rid of it or at least to stop the pain it causes me





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I am 58 and have had 3 children. Over the last couple of years sexual intercourse has become very painful. This is not due to vaginal dryness. The pain is worst when my husband reaches orgasm. It originates towards the back of the vulva, on either side. The two areas feel like ulcers when I touch them and bleed when touched, although not a lot. The pain is like an ulcer being stretched and is searing, like being cut. My GP has prescribed Vagifem 25 pessaries and Dermovate ointment. I also saw a consultant at the hospital who prescribed an HRT topical cream - sorry, I can't find the old tube. Non of these treatments has helped. I feel like I am being thrown on the scrap heap and when I ask if it could relate to the Bartholin or Skene glands they say that they can't see anything. My husband is very kind and understanding, but feel that our relationship is missing those (albeit rarer) loving moments that we used to share. I am ing back to my GP this week but feel that they are beginning to get exasperated with me. Please can you advise my in any way? Many thanks.





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Im 13 years old an have a lump between my vagina and bum but its closer to my bum,it isn't sore it's just a hard lump and I'm worried about what it is





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If I'm understanding you correctly i think what you're talking about is perfectly normal, its just the muscle/bone/thing that separates those 2 areas but if you are concerned you might want to ask a doctor.

If I'm understanding you correctly i think what you're talking about is perfectly normal, its just the muscle/bone/thing that separates those 2 areas but if you are concerned you might want to ask a doctor.

Hi, I'm a 50yr old woman. I have found a large irregular rough shaped lump just inside my vagina. It is impossible to have intercourse, very painful if my husband even tries to penetrate. I had a full hysterectomy when I was 34 because I suffered with endometriosis. I have 2 children who were born by caesarean. Please tell me what this lump is. As I am so very worried. Thank you





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i have about 8-10 small black spots raised on outer lips of my vagina. the fisrt one i got was quite raised and sore ,i seem to be getting more and more _ they are on both sides around my vigina on the outer lips. I've always been told I have a sexy p***y and its been looked at and treated well but now I'm so embarrassed and worried. Im so embarrased by what it looks like i dont want anyone looking there - where once i really enjoyed that. I don't even know what to say when I call the doctors office so I don't want to...it's really embarrassing.





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I'm 19 and the past few weeks/months I've had a persistent itch on my vulva area, clitoris and labia hat just won't go away. It's leaving me sore and raw. I have a little wart like lump on my vulva also, and pain in my pelvis and a lump in my groin that's sore now and then. I think these symptoms are all linked. But I'm not certain and would like an opinion on if. I have got a doctors appointment on Tuesday. So hopefully I'll get told what it is. :)





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I've been dealing with tis also and I have many questions i'd like to ask if I can :) If you get it quite regularly then that may mean it's thrush and you just may need some cream. If not then you might want to get checked, it's nothing but it's always good to be safe! Hope it all gets sorted and is no longer a problem! :)

Thanks for your reply. I've had it for about a month or so. But the lump in my groin is a bit painful. As I said I have my appointment at the doctors on Tuesday so hopefully! I know it's not thrush cause I've had that before and this is completely different! :/

Myself 20yrs old, i am really worried bcoz today i found my clitoris was slightly bigger in size and when looked under the folds of labia majora, there were some small white coloured granules which got removed(or cleared) when i touched them. My vulva had a bad odour.but it didn't pain or itched!periods are normal and m still virgin. PLEASE,help me out of this. Reply ASAP!!!





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Hi Ive just recently had sex. My first time. I have a weird thin skin below my vagina area.like a webbing between my butt cheeks. Its in the area called the perineum. Im worried because when I open my legs to have sex, that extra skin hurts alot. I dont feel like thats supposed to be there. Does anybody else have this? Can someone please tell me what this is. I feel like such a freak. :(





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I have my period which lasts from 7 to 10 days. Can be light to start and then get heavier as time goes on. Often it can be the other way round. After 2 days I then have more blood which lasts for a further 2 days. I have never had this before but been told by doctor it's normal. I was diagnosed with a cyst on my left ovary but it cleared up its self. Could this all be linked?





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It looks like no one else has asked this question, so please fill in the rest of your details below.





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