Tests for vulval cancer | Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter

Tests for vulval cancer

Women discussing vulval cancer

This page tells you about tests for vulval cancer. There are sections on

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Seeing your GP

If you are concerned about vulval cancer or have symptoms, it is usual to begin by seeing your family doctor (GP). Your GP will examine you and ask about your general health and any symptoms you may be having. If your doctor feels that you need some tests, he or she will refer you to a specialist at your local hospital.

At the hospital

When you first see the specialist, they will ask about your medical history and symptoms. They will also examine your vulval area. The specialist will then arrange for you to have tests if necessary.

Biopsies

Your doctor may want you to have a biopsy. This means removing a sample of the tissue from the affected area of the vulva. The tissue is then looked at under a microscope to see if you have VIN (precancerous changes) or vulval cancer. If you do have vulval cancer, the biopsy will show which type of vulval cancer it is.

The biopsy is often done under local anaesthetic. Sometimes the doctor needs to use a general anaesthetic, in which case you might need to stay in hospital overnight.

Another type of biopsy that doctors use is called a punch biopsy. You have a local anaesthetic. They use an instrument that looks like a tiny apple corer. It removes a small piece of skin. You won't need any stitches afterwards.

 

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

 

 

Seeing your GP

If you are concerned about vulval cancer or have symptoms, it is usual to begin by seeing your family doctor (GP). Your GP will examine you and ask about your general health and any symptoms you may be having. This will include what they are and how long you have had them. If your doctor feels that you need some tests, he or she will refer you to a specialist at your local hospital. This may be a specialist in woman's diseases (a gynaecologist) or a specialist in skin diseases (dermatologist).

Read more about symptoms of vulval cancer and referral to see a specialist

 

At the hospital

When you first see the specialist, they will ask about your medical history and symptoms. They will also examine your vulval area. The specialist will then arrange for you to have tests if necessary.

 

Removing a sample of tissue (biopsy)

Your doctor may want you to have a biopsy. This means removing a sample of tissue from the affected area of the vulva. The doctor sends the sample to the laboratory where an expert (a pathologist) examines it. The pathologist looks at the tissue under a microscope to see whether you have VIN (precancerous changes) or vulval cancer. If you do have vulval cancer, looking at the cells under the microscope will show which type of vulval cancer it is. You may have

  • A vulval biopsy
  • A punch biopsy

A vulval biopsy means the doctor removes part of the affected area. You usually have a local anaesthetic in the outpatient clinic. Sometimes the doctor may need to use a general anaesthetic to take the biopsy. 

Another type of biopsy doctors use is called a punch biopsy. You have this under a local anaesthetic. They use an instrument that looks like a tiny apple corer. It removes a small piece of skin. You won't need any stitches afterwards.

You may have some discomfort during any of these types of biopsy. Afterwards, you may have slight bleeding for a few days. This is nothing to worry about. But do tell your doctor if the bleeding is heavy. You may also have some soreness for a few days. Mild painkillers can help.

Rate this page:
Submit rating

 

Rated 5 out of 5 based on 12 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 26 May 2016