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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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I can see the grainy feeling part of my vagina in the opening? Is this normal?





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Please help me I've been to 6 doctors and had every swab, blood, scan and urine test under the sun and no one has helped me. My opening is really red and painful and urinating is very hard and uncomfortable.





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Hi, I've recently noticed that I have some skin tag looking things on the opening of my vaginally.they don't bother me and they don't hurt whilst having sex but just wondering what could they been? I've got a 21 month old baby and had to have stitches after the birth,could it be anything to do with that? We are also trying to conceive at the moment.





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Hello I have a spot on the outa lip of my vigina it sometimes has puss coming out of it and sometimes it's a small lump that just stays their it seams to have gone down could you please let me know what this is thank you.





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Hi I've just noticed a black mark in the vulva area of her vagina she's worried but I don't knw what to think wasn't there before any help appreciated thanks





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I have a small lump on the side of my vagina /Labia quite close to my upper leg. I don't know what it is or how to get rid of it , am ashamed to go near my partner Incase be notices I don't know if it has something to do with cancer or if it's a spot or a cyst am not sure it feels like it's under my skin am so scared what is it and what can I do?





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Hiya for the last couple of years I've suffered with lumps on outside of vagina I do shave and not sure if this could add to the problem I have lumps like cysts sometimes they hurt other times they don't sometimes they get larger other times stay the same size as anyone else had this please I've been doctors in the past which they wernt concerned but I am





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On the opening of my vagina hole the skin has turned white, like at the bottom of the hole. It's making me feel uncomftable and itchy. Please help me.





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Sounds like lichen sclerosus. Skin turns white as your white blood cells attack your skin from below. Very itchy. It is an auto-immune disease. You'll want to see a doctor.

Please get this looked at immediately. I had this and it was VIN111 pre vulvar cancer. I also had a tiny itchy spot like a pimple and it was an invasive cancer. I had them both removed...i have to have a check every 6 months....i hope yours is something not so sinister.good luck :)

Please get this looked at immediately. I had this and it was VIN111 pre vulvar cancer. I also had a tiny itchy spot like a pimple and it was an invasive cancer. I had them both removed...i have to have a check every 6 months....i hope yours is something not so sinister.good luck :)

A while back I noticed a small dark patch of discolouration on my labia, it doesn't hurt or itch or anything. I am just wondering what the cause of it could be ? I am on a contraceptive pill, not sure if that could relate or not.





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I'm 13 and a virgin, for about 6 months I've noticed almost like stretched skin on my vagina, I think it's called the Laybia. It gets itchy at night and in the morning it's all swollen and sore. It's only stretched on the left side and I can stretch it about 1 and a half inches. I hate it. You also can imagine what place I am on not knowing what to do in this situation as I cannot just go to the doctors whenever as I have school and I would have to tell my parents. Please help as I'm not sure what to think.





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This is probably part of your normal anatomy and nothing to worry about, but there might be something else going on (for example an infection). It sounds like it would be a really good idea to go to your local GP or sexual health clinic just to get it checked out. I know it's really scary and feels horribly embarrassing, but if you can manage, it would be a really good idea to talk to someone like your mum about this. I'm sure she would be really understanding and sympathetic (you could also ask a sister, cousin, aunty, or gran that you're close to). If you really don't want to go down this route, I suggest you ask that your parents take you to the doctor for some other reason ('tummy aches' etc) - anything you tell the doctor will be private between the two of you, they're not allowed to tell your parents. But really, it's best to be open with your mum - she won't be angry or upset, just worried that you're ok.





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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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