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Symptoms & Diagnosis

Wilmot Cancer Institute provides the full spectrum of vaginal and vulvar cancer care, from initial diagnosis and treatment to recovery and rehabilitation.

We work in multidisciplinary teams. Multidisciplinary means that our care providers are experts with a variety of specialties: gynecological oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, nurse practitioners, social workers, and clinical researchers. They work together on your case to provide the most personalized care possible.

Symptoms

Vaginal cancer symptoms: Most women have abnormal bleeding or abnormal vaginal discharge. Other symptoms include a lump or mass in the vagina, or pain during intercourse. In more advanced cases, women may experience constipation and pain in the pelvic area.

Vulvar cancer symptoms: The most common symptom is a lump, growth, or skin changes in the vulvar region. Lumps can be dark (like a melanoma mole) or red, pink, or white, and they can have wart-like or rough surfaces. Any thickening of the skin should be seen by a doctor. Other symptoms include itching, pain or burning, sores that don’t heal, or abnormal bleeding from the vagina.

How are vaginal and vulvar cancers diagnosed?

Medical history and physical examination: This includes a complete medical history and assessment of risk factors and symptoms. The physical exam will include a pelvic examination, which involves checking the vagina, cervix, and vulva for signs of disease.

Colposcopy: Similar to a pelvic exam with a speculum, this procedure allows the doctor to use an instrument called a colposcope with magnifying lenses to examine the vagina and vular region. If an abnormal area is detected, doctors can treat the skin with a vinegar-like solution that causes pre-cancerous areas to turn white. A biopsy is the next step.

Biopsy: This involves a doctor removing cells or tissues from the suspicious area and sending the sample to a pathologist for review under a microscope.

Imaging tests: These include CT scans, MRIs and PET scans. Sometimes they are needed to determine if cancer has spread or to look for other health problems that might impact treatment decisions.