Women examine their breasts or skin for changes and they should do the same with their vulva. A vulvar self-exam is a great way to screen for vulvar problems.
The vulva is the female external genitals. The outer lips of the vulva are the labia majora. The labia minora are the inner lips. The clitoris is at the top of the inner lips and partly covered by a fold of tissue called the hood. The perineum is the area between the anus and vagina.
It’s possible to have infections or precancerous growths on the vulva, but not be aware of it until the problem becomes more advanced. The key to early detection is a vulvar self-exam. This aids in treatment and prevention of any further problems.
The exam is quite simple and takes only five to 10 minutes. You just need a private area and a mirror.
Find a comfortable well-lit position, be it standing or sitting. Use a hand or magnifying mirror so you can clearly see your vulvar area, perineum, and anus. The other hand will separate and expose the parts of the vulva. The exam requires both looking at and touching the area.
First check the area where the pubic hair grows. Look carefully for any bumps, warts, ulcers, or changes in skin color particularly newly developed white, red, or dark areas. Use your finger tips to check for any changes just below the surface.
Then check the clitoris and surrounding area. Gently pull back the skin covering the clitoris and examine the area under the hood. Continue to look for any growths, bumps or discoloration.
Check the labia majora, both the right and left outer lips and feel for any bumps. Also visually look for any changes. Next, separate the inner lips and look carefully for any changes.
Move down to the perineum. Again, look for rashes, bumps, growths, and lesions. Finally, examine the area surrounding the anal opening.
Most likely any changes or growths on the vulva won’t be cancerous. Typically they only need minor treatment.
All women over 18 should perform vulvar self-exams once a month between menstrual periods Women with a history of vulvar disease are encouraged to do so more often.