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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 a few concerns that I don't know if I should worry about or not. Please help me. -Painful Intercourse. Me and my boyfriend can't have sex because it hurts me so bad. It burns very bad. And it's gotten worse. I am not too dry and neither of us have any STDs. -Bleeding during Intercourse. I bled really bad a few times very randomly. One time it was just him fingering me. Two times after that was during sex. Not to rough or anything. Wasn't related to my period. -Painful Urination. When I pee it hurts. But it's not the urinating itself that hurts towards the end of my pee there's a needle sharp pain that comes from my vagina. Not every time but most of the time. -Bumps in vaginal canal. I don't know if this is normal or not. I've read that it is but also that it could be a concern. Both my boyfriend and I have felt bumps in my vaginal canal. They are decent sized bumps and are higher up in the canal. (We just discovered this recently which is why I'm worried) -Vaginal Discharge. since I was younger I've always had discharge. Don't know if it's normal or not, assuming it is. But lately it's a lot more and it has a sort of yellow tint and a strong odor. -Pain in ovaries. I have been having bad pressure pains near my ovaries. Sometimes it's sharp pain. -Frequent Urination. I have been peeing a lot! Like 5-10 times a day and that is not normal for me! I'm not sure if all these symptoms are related but all I can think of is cancer cancer cancer. And id like to get this out of my head. Should I be worried?





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I would see my GP as soon as possible. You seem to have a lot going on and are very worried about it. Even just to put your mind at rest you should see someone...And don't be palmed off. Be assertive tell them all of your symptoms and ask lots of questions. No one should have to endure all of the discomfort you describe, but if you don't have it investigated you will just continue to worry. Please see your GP soon and let them put your mind at rest. Thoughts are with you.

Whilst I was checking myself today I noticed that I had black/purplish blotches on my vulva. I'm now worried....





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Hi i am 25 years old and had my first baby in january 2014. I had a tear n stitches after that. I gave enough time to heal it up but been 7 months now and i still have pain into my vagina and now from last one month i am bleeding continuously. Cant tell the difference between periods and discharge. Did not try sex either from 7 months.Any help?





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My vagina near the outside stings during sex, and it hurts when I pee for a few hours after intercourse. I've had intercourse a few times but only the past couple times its hurt? Please help!





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Hi, im 14 and ive been suffering with and itchy vagina for two years now, i have no idea what is it, its just everywhere around the entry, its deffinitly not normal, ive been to see my doctor who said it was thrush, but ive researched and thrush doesnt last that long!!! Please help, as im constantly being irratated!!





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Hi, im 14 and ive been suffering with and itchy vagina for two years now, i have no idea what is it, its just everywhere around the entry, its deffinitly not normal, ive been to see my doctor who said it was thrush, but ive researched and thrush doesnt last that long!!! Please help, as im constantly being irratated!!





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Hi im 32 with 3 children since having my second child when I go for my smear I find it very painful . Last time I had I literally had to be held down . Why is it so painful ? The nurse said that maybe my cervix was right at the back and they would be able to pull it forward which sounds very painful . Can I be put to sleep so a doctor can take a look to see what the problem is ?





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You may have a tilt. You should speak to your GP who will be able to refer you to have it investigated. I think this is a reasonably common issue and they will be used to dealing with it . Don't worry.

Ive spoke to my doctor before and they haven't really done anything . I really dont want to be looked at without anaesthetic or something as it is really painful . Do you think I should keep asking ? Thankyou for your reply

Hello, I am 35, and I have a hard lump on the upper portion of my labia minoria, alittle larger than a pea. and thoughts or suggestions?





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Hi, I have had something similar very recently and my g.p. told me it was a "cyst", treatable and gave me antibiotics, I was also told to check it over the next few weeks and if it did not go, to make another appointment with my g.p. - I hope this helps.

Hi I'm 16 and recently while shaving discovered a black spot on my left labia on the inside. It's not raised but it's a little sensitive to touch. I searched it and read about all the cancer and now I'm really scared. I'm hoping it's nothing because it's small (about 5 mm in diameter) but my vulva had been itchy for a couple days before I noticed it. I just recently lost my virginity and I'm worried that might have affected it. Help?





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Go to the GP petal especially if you've had unprotected sex. Always best to check things out. This is probably nothing, but health first

hello im 30yrs old and have 2 lumps on my labia majora they dont hurt or anything but im wondering why they are there shall i go to doctors to get it checked out for anything?





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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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