You may have some symptoms of vulval cancer. They can be vague, particularly at an early stage.
If you have any symptoms do get them checked by your GP.
Symptoms around the vulval area can include:
- a lasting itch
- pain or soreness
- thickened, raised, red, white or dark patches on the skin
- an open sore or growth visible on the skin
- a mole that changes shape or colour
- a lump
Other symptoms include:
- burning pain when you pass urine
- discharge or bleeding, not related to your periods
- a lump or swelling in the groin
These symptoms can be caused by other conditions, such as infection. See you GP if you notice any of these symptoms. Your GP can examine you. They can refer you for tests or see a specialist if needed.
Checking for changes in the vulva
Some doctors recommend that you look at your own vulva regularly to look for any changes. They call this self examination. Checks like this might help you to pick up vulval conditions and cancer at an early stage. These can then be treated if needed.
How do I check?
You can do a self examination between periods. There are different ways you can do this:
- sit comfortably on a bed or mat, spread your legs and hold a mirror so that you can see the outside of your genitalia. Use the other hand to spread the labia
- put a magnifying make up mirror on a closed toilet seat. Stand over the toilet with a leg on either side of the toilet. Use both hands to spread the labia, or have a spare hand to steady yourself
You will need to examine the whole area from the pubic mound (mons pubis) to the anal opening, including both sets of labia, the clitoris and the vaginal opening.
The pubic mound is the rounded, fleshy area above your pubic bone. Look over each area for anything that seems abnormal for you. Then feel each area for lumps under the surface, which you might not be able to see.
These are some things to check for:
- lumps, nodules, bumps, warts or sores (ulcers)
- changes in skin colour – areas that are red, irritated, white or darkly coloured
Get any changes checked by your doctor, at a well woman clinic or at a sexual health clinic. The earlier vulval problems are found, the easier they are to treat.
Treatment for vaginal thrush
Thrush is a common yeast infection that can affect the mouth and skin in different parts of the body. The symptoms of vaginal thrush can be similar to vulval cancer and include:
- itching and soreness
- white discharge
- pain when passing urine or having sex
If you think you keep getting thrush, don't just keep treating yourself with over the counter creams, such as Canesten.
It is worth going to the GP for a check up. This is to make sure that thrush is the root cause of your discomfort. The itching could be a sign that you are developing vulval intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN).