How is vulvar cancer diagnosed?

There is no standard screening for vulvar cancer beyond the annual pelvic exam. If an abnormality is found, your physician may perform additional tests, such as:
  • Colposcopy: A special viewing scope with magnifying lenses is used to examine the vulva and vagina.
  • Biopsy: A small sample of abnormal tissue is removed for examination under a microscope for signs of cancerous changes.
In addition to a biopsy, diagnostic equipment may be used to see if the vulvar cancer has spread. This may include:
  • Cystoscopy or proctoscopy: To check to see if cancer has spread to the urethra or bladder, a thin, lighted tube (cystoscope) is inserted through your urethra. Similarly, a proctoscope is inserted into your rectum to check for cancer there.
  • Pelvic examination: For a more thorough pelvic exam, it may be performed while the patient is asleep under anesthesia.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: combines multiple x-rays to provide three-dimensional clarity and show various types of tissue, including blood vessels. CT not only confirms the presence of a tumor but can show its precise location, size, and involvement with adjacent tissue.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Magnets and radio waves provide three-dimensional images of the body. Used to view biochemical changes in the body to detect cancerous tumors, particularly those that have spread beyond the vulva. MRI may also be used to determine if a tumor is benign or malignant.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: a specific dye injected into a vein highlights cancer cells growing anywhere in the body, which can then be detected by a special camera.

To diagnose possible vulvar cancer, your doctor would first perform a physical exam to look for signs of the disorder. Your doctor may also ask questions about your health history and any recent conditions or symptoms. If your doctor thinks it is necessary, you might be given a biopsy on tissue or cells taken from your vulva. Then a specialist would examine the sample for signs of vulvar cancer.

Continue Learning about Vulvar Cancer

Vulvar Cancer

Vulvar cancer develops when abnormal cells grow on the surface of a womans external genitalia.Developing slowly over years, cancer of the vulva affects the inner and outer vaginal lips called the labia minora and labia majora, the ...

opening to the vagina called the vestibule and the clitoris. See your doctor if you notice an itchy or painful lump or sore on your genitalia. Like other gynecologic cancers, the human papillomavirus (HPV) puts you at higher risk of developing this disease. You also have increased risk if youre over the age of 50, have been infected with HIV or have been diagnosed with cervical cancer. A pelvic exam can detect vulvar cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are commonly used to treat this cancer. Aggressive treatments may require removal of part or the entire vulva.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.