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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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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.

Hi please help I'm having problems with my vigina it sore and my vulva seems bigger and more tender.... I'm also constantly putting weight on no matter how hard I try to lose...I've also started with acne on my jaw and neck and my right eye feels dry...Please help





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I finger my felt a bit so I'm know what my vigina is like so after I first had sex I knew when something wasnt right. I inserted my finger inside and started to have fun when I could feel a small hole in the viginal wall is this normal or should I get it checked out?





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Hello! I'm 25 and I found a mass under the skin of my vagina, located near the right side of the mons pubis region, below the hip. It's about the size of a grape and can be moved around. Its not visible above the skin and can only be identified by touch. I first noticed it about 3 months ago, and for the past month I have noticed a dull aching. Should I be concerned?





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Hi...im 19 and ive noticed these tiny black spots on the edges of my labia majora buh they go down to de opening of my vagina. They itch too and i have no idea what they are or how to treat them. Im not sexually active at de moment...please help.





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Hi. When I have sex, at first, I have the real pain/stinging, so much we cannot carry on for a while....





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If you haven't see your GP, you can ask for a lady DR if you wish. Pain during sex can be a couple of reasons I can think of one your not lbricated enough, I.e not enough foreplay, you can always buy a lubricant from the chemist etc, The other an infection or something else do get it checked out. All the best

I was having pain so I checked with a mirror and I saw that my vaginal opening was small and a little dark . It also hurts a little and its uncomfortable to sit. What exactly is wrong ? Is it and infection?





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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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