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vulvar cancer may start on any part of the vulva

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Updated: Saturday, Aug 14,2010, 4:47:26 PM
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vulvar cancer may start on any part of the vulva. But the most common sites are the inner edges of the lips outside and inside the lips. Less often, it may be the clitoris, or two small glands on either side of the vagina called Bartholin glands. It is also sometimes diagnosed in the perineum.

Usually, you begin by seeing your doctor, who will examine you. If there is a possibility of vulvar cancer, you must be referred to a specialist on women's cancers (gynecologic cancer specialist). Your doctor may also arrange for you to have a blood test and chest X-ray to check your overall health.

The gynecologist ask you questions about your general health. They will also examine your vulva. This can be done at your appointment as an outpatient. If you have a narrowing of the vagina due to lichen sclerosus, or if your vagina is too painful for a complete examination, the gynecologist can arrange for you to be examined under general anesthesia.

The vulva is an intimate and private part of the body, so that some women naturally find it embarrassing to have a disturbing examination of the vulva. If you feel this way your doctor or nurse so they can give you emotional support.

Before the examination, a nurse will help you position yourself on a sofa that has special leg supports. The doctor will use a light and a magnifying glass to examine the vulva for the skin more clear. They can then take small samples of tissue (biopsies) from anywhere in your vulva that look unusual.

You will also have an internal examination to check your vagina and cervix abnormalities. The doctor will use a speculum (a plastic or metal instrument) to maintain the vaginal walls open. A liquid will be stamped on your cervix to help detect abnormal areas more clearly. You can have a cervical smear (a small sample of cells from the cervix). The doctor will also examine your back passage (anus).

 This is the best way to diagnose cancer of the vulva and is essential before the cancer is treated. A doctor takes a small tissue sample (biopsy) of the abnormal area of the vulva. The biopsy is then sent to a laboratory for examination under a microscope.

A biopsy can often be done on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia to numb the area. But if the vulva is too painful, you can have a biopsy under general anesthesia. Before the biopsy is taken, an anesthetic is injected into

the skin of the vulva to numb it. This may sting for a few seconds. It should not be any pain when the tissue sample is taken from your vagina, but you may feel a little discomfort.

After a biopsy you may have mild bleeding (tell your doctor if it is more serious than that), and some pain. Painkillers can help relieve the pain and take a hot bath can also be soothing.

The doctor will usually see about 7-10 days after the biopsy to give you the results. Pending the results can be a stressful time, and our list | support organizations can help you cope.

Tags: Cancer Vulvar

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