Vulvar self examinations are an integral part of feminine hygiene because they allow a woman to recognize her own unique anatomy and help her monitor the normal architecture of her vulva. Examining the tissues and skin, as well as noting the color, odor and normal physiological discharge, will help to distinguish normal from abnormal. Following this advice will provide early recognition of vulvar changes, whether in discharge, color or odor coupled with other symptoms which lead to early detection.
When should the exam be done?
The vulva self-examination should be done approximately once a month between menstrual cycles. If you are no longer having your period/menstrual cycle choose a day of the month (perhaps a birth date or lucky number) that will be easy to remember and do your examination on that specific day monthly. You can consider combining all your personal examinations together and include breast, vulvar and vaginal examinations together and complete them on the same day. Women with specific vulvar diseases, or those who are prone to infection or irritation, may consider doing examinations more often. Women who have a family history of vulvar cancer should consider more frequent medical and self-examinations.
How long should the exam take?
The vulva self exam should typically take no longer than 10 minutes. It is important to find a quiet and private time where you will not be interrupted to complete this examination. Some women prefer to do this examination in the evenings before bedtime or right before their morning showers.
What supplies will I need?
Most women just use their fingers and a hand held mirror to do the examination. Find a safe quiet and private place where you can easily undress and do this examination without interruption. Some women prefer the bathroom and lock the door, while others prefer their master bedroom. Be sure to do the exam during private times, take the phone off the hook, put your cellular phone on vibrate and consider locking the door to prevent unwanted interruptions.
Performing the Vulvar Self-Examination
Find a comfortable place either the couch, bed or in the bathroom.