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Should I see a vulval cancer specialist?

Women discussing vulval cancer

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

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Should I see a vulval cancer specialist?

It can be difficult to tell the difference between vulval cancer and other non cancerous conditions of the vulva. So 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. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have produced guidelines for GPs to help them decide which patients need to see a specialist urgently.

Vulval cancer is rare. Most cases are diagnosed in women over the age of 65. In 90 out of every 100 women diagnosed with vulval cancer their doctor will be able to see a lump or sore area on the vulva. The NICE guidelines say that your GP should consider an urgent referral to a specialist (within 2 weeks) if you have

  • An unexplained vulval lump or sore (ulceration)
  • Bleeding from the vulva

If you go to the GP with itching or pain, they may suggest some treatment and keep an eye on you to see if the symptoms go away. 

 

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

 

 

About UK guidelines

It can be difficult to tell the difference between vulval cancer and other non cancerous conditions of the vulva. So it can be hard 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 and those needing urgent appointments wouldn't be able to get them.

Vulval cancer is rare. Most cases are diagnosed in women over the age of 65. 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) have produced guidelines for GPs to help them decide which patients need to see a specialist urgently. 

Seeing a specialist

 

Guidelines for urgent referrals

The NICE guidelines say that your GP should consider an urgent referral (within 2 weeks) to a specialist if you have

  • An unexplained vulval lump or sore (ulceration) 
  • Bleeding from the vulva

If you go to the doctor with itching or pain, your doctor might suggest some treatment and keep an eye on you to see if the symptoms go away. 

 

If you are still worried

It is reasonable for your doctor to try to treat vulval itching or pain. These symptoms could be caused by a skin infection, for example. 

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

 

What happens when you see a specialist?

If you see a specialist they will want to examine you and may do several tests.

Read more about tests for vulval cancer.

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Updated: 27 January 2016