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Vulvar Self-Examination

While most women know the importance of performing breast self-examination, few women have heard about vulvar self-examination (VSE). As mentioned above, the appearance of the vulva is highly variable. Between routine gynecological examinations, you should perform regular VSEs to detect abnormalities that may indicate infection or other conditions. It is important to start performing VSE at an early age, so you can learn what is normal for you and recognize any changes that occur. You should not experience discomfort from your VSE, unless you have a vaginal infection, open sore or other vulvar condition. (13)

How to Perform VSE

  • Perform VSE in a well-lit area.
  • Wash your hands before performing your VSE.
  • Sit down on a comfortable surface, or stand with one foot propped up on a chair or bed.
  • Hold a mirror in one hand and use the other hand to examine the vulva.
  • Examine the parts of the vulva using sight and touch: the mons pubis; the left and right folds of the labia majora and minora; the clitoris and its general area; the skin around the vaginal entrance; the perineum; and the perianal area.

What to Look for During Your VSE

  • Changes in appearance, such as a new mole, wart, lump or other growth; changes in skin color such as white, reddened or brown patches of skin; cuts or sores.
  • Changes in the feel of the skin, paying careful attention to areas where you feel pain, itching, or other discomfort.
  • During visual inspection of the vulva, apply gentle pressure to the vulvar skin to check for any lumps.

When to Perform Your VSE

VSE should be performed in between menstrual periods, preferably at the same time each month. All sexually active women and women over 18 should perform VSE. If you notice any change, you should contact your physician promptly.


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vulvovaginal_health_8-newCourtesy of Dawn Danby and Paul Waggoner
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