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Tests to find the cancer

Usually you begin by seeing your GP, who will examine you.

If there is a chance you have vulval cancer, you should be referred to a gynaecologic oncologist. A gynaecologic oncologist is a doctor who specialises in diagnosing and treating cancer of women’s reproductive organs (including the vulva). This specialist is very experienced with gynaecological cancers and is the best type of doctor for you to be seen and treated by.

Your doctor may also arrange for you to have a blood test and chest x-ray to check your general health. At the clinic or hospital the gynaecologic oncologist will take your medical history and do a full medical examination.


This medical procedure will include an examination of your vulva. A colposcope may be used to identify any abnormal areas.

The colposcope is like a small microscope with a bright light that can magnify areas so that the cells can be seen more clearly. The colposcope remains outside the body. A biopsy will be taken.

Internal examination

You will also have an internal examination to check your vagina and cervix for any abnormality.

A cervical smear test (Pap smear) may be done if you haven’t had one recently. Some women with skin conditions called lichen planus or lichen sclerosus can have narrowing of the vagina so they may need to have the smear under a general anaesthetic.

The doctor may also examine your rectum to check for any abnormal lumps.


A biopsy is the best way to diagnose cancer of the vulva. This means removing a sample of tissue from the affected area of the skin.

First, an injection of local anaesthetic is given where the abnormal cells occur on the vaulva. The doctor then takes a small amount of these cells (a biopsy) so that a pathologist can examine them under a microscope, to confirm whether cells are cancerous, and if so, to show which type of vulval cancer it is.