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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.

Chi, Im 15 im not sexually active and the outside of my vagina is crazy itchy and I think I have a wierd bump thing





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My vagina has bluish looking spots on the inside folds of the clitoris. Is that a std.





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i have just found a red hard lump on my vulva, very painful to touch. not an ingrown hair as I haven't shaved for weeks and it has only just appeared over the last couple of days. I have not been able to book an appointment yet as I work full time.





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my vagina is itchy and just utterly painful. it has been going on for the last two weeks, I have not had sexual intercourse as I am only 13 years old I do shave'down there' and I am afraid I just cant tell my doctor please help me I cant sleep at night its that painful. by the way I do masturbate very much and i do have plenty of discharge I have not been on my period thanks a lot please help me





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Sounds like thrush, This isn't a sti or std t is simply too much yeast, which is normal, Maybe a change of diet can help and don't use soaps to clean in between your legs use a special feminine wash if you must, but water is best, keeping clean is essential but using soaps will wash away bacteria you need, Also don't wear tight underwear or nylon as this will make it feel worse, You can go to a chemist or pharmacy and get thrush treatment over the counter and i don't think you have to be a certain age to use it, Just read the instructions and you'll be fine, You should talk to someone about it, Its very common and you need to find out what is causing it, It may simply be hormones changing or food you are eating.

Hello, I'm 21 years old and I notice a flat black mark that looks underneath the skin on my labia minora, sort of a centimeter below and to the left of the clitoris. I have some odor like acid , but no itching or pain or swelling or anything like that. Is this normal?





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I'm 13, I have noticed that my vaginal opening is really really itchy and sore to go to the toilet. Obviosly I panicked and looked in a mirror to see if I could see anything and I saw that it looked all red and like white creamy stuff was resting around the area...I wash properly and everything but don't know how this has happened...! Can anyone help me? Too embarrassed to talk to parents or go to a doctor😶





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sounds like a yeast infection but it's best to go to the doctor for your first one. just to make sure.

Dear 13, I know how hard it its to open up to your parents about these private things but: It sounds like you have a pretty bad yeast infection and need to get treated asap. This is so very common and there's no reason to be embarrassed, I would almost guaranty your mother has had her fair share. Please care for your body, you only get one. Let someone know and in the mean time eat lots of yogurt, loose clothes, and cotton underpants. Hope this helped.

sounds like thrush try canesten cream you can get this from a chemist

Uh I'm 13 and my vagina has a white lumpish thing I have no idea what it is I don't want to tell my parents





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Hi. I'm 13 and haven't started my period yet. However I saw a little bump on my vagina but didn't take no notice of it but it started to get bigger about the size of 2 peas but now it very very painful. I walk funny becauss otherwise my pants rub on it and my vagina is swollen only on the left handsome because that's where the bump is. Please tell me what this is😭





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It is probably an in grown hair.

Hi, I'm a 22 year old woman I have noticed a small flat dark spot on my libra majora and worried about it. It's been there for the last 6 years, there's no pain no itch or I have no discharge, what should I do about it? My partner of the last 5 years has just been diagnosed with genital warts but neither of us has been in contact with anyone else in last 5 years please help





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I've got several navy blue oval shapes on both labia minora, with what looks like navy blue bruising also,they can be sore and itchy but mostly sore& swollen, and have had both labia minora lips turn completely blue also. I have not been in a sexual situation for over 10 years, (cannot masturbate for the soreness to account for the 'bruising'colourisation) What does this blueness mean?

I'm 14 and a few weeks ago I was in the shower and noticed a lump that's just over 50mm long I think (poor judgement probably) it's painless to the touch and can move around freely. It's located in the top left of my labia majora and I've been panicking about it ever since. It's pretty personal so I don't really want to go and talk to my mother about it. Any advice because I'm really scared it's cancer. Thanks in advance





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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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