Should I see a vaginal cancer specialist? | Cancer Research UK
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Should I see a vaginal cancer specialist?

Women discussing vaginal cancer

This page tells you about the guidelines that GPs have to help them decide who needs to see a specialist for possible vaginal cancer.

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Should I see a vaginal cancer specialist?

It can be very difficult for GPs to decide who may have a suspected cancer and who may have something much more minor. But there are particular symptoms that mean your GP should refer you to a specialist straight away. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has produced guidelines for GPs to help them decide which patients need to see a specialist urgently.

What your GP should do first

Your GP should examine you internally if you have a change in your menstrual cycle, bleeding between your periods, bleeding after sex, an abnormal discharge, or bleeding if you are past your menopause. 

Your GP should refer you to a specialist urgently (within 2 weeks) if they see or feel a lump in or at the entrance to your vagina.

If you are concerned that your GP is not taking your symptoms as seriously as you think they should, you could print this page and take it along to an appointment.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the about vaginal cancer section.

 

 

UK guidelines

It can be very difficult for GPs to decide who may have a suspected cancer and who may have something much more minor that will go away on its own. With many symptoms, it is perfectly right that your GP should ask you to wait to see if they get better or respond to treatment (such as antibiotics). If GPs referred everyone who came to see them to a specialist immediately, the system would get jammed. Then people needing urgent appointments wouldn't be able to get them.

Seeing a specialist

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has produced guidelines for GPs to help them decide which patients need to see a specialist urgently.

 

What your GP should do first

Your GP should do an internal medical examination if you have

  • A change in your menstrual cycle, or bleeding between your periods
  • Bleeding after sex
  • Bleeding if you are past your menopause
  • An abnormal discharge from your vagina

These symptoms can be a sign of cancer of the vagina. But they can also be caused by other conditions too and don't mean that you definitely have cancer. Your GP or specialist nurse should do a full pelvic examination, using a speculum. They can then see the whole of the vagina properly, up to the neck of the womb (cervix).

 

Urgent referral to a specialist

According to the NICE guidelines, you should get an appointment within 2 weeks for an urgent referral. The guidelines say that your GP should refer you to a specialist urgently if 

  • You have a lump in or at the entrance to your vagina
 

If you are still worried

If you are worried that your GP is not taking your symptoms as seriously as you think they should, you could print this page and take it along to an appointment. Ask your GP to talk it through with you. Then you may be able to decide together whether you need to see a specialist and if so, how soon.

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Updated: 11 September 2015