The vulva

The vulva is the name given to all the visible sex organs of a woman (see diagram below). It is made up of:

  • two thin, delicate folds of skin called the labia minora
  • two large, hair-covered folds called the labia majora, which surround the labia minora.

Between the labia are two openings:

  • the entrance of the vagina (birth canal)
  • the opening of the tube that drains urine from the bladder (the urethra).

At the front of the vulva, above the vagina and urethra, is the clitoris. This small structure is very sensitive and helps a woman reach sexual climax (orgasm).

On either side of the vagina are two small glands called Bartholin’s glands. These make a fluid that acts as a lubricant during sex.

Above the vulva is an area of fatty tissue called the mons pubis.

Further back, under the legs, is the opening to the back passage (anus). It is separated from the vulva by an area of skin called the perineum.

The area where the skin creases at the top of each leg is called the groin. The groin contains lymph nodes, which are part of the lymphatic system.

The vulva and lymph nodes
The vulva and lymph nodes

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Back to Understanding vulval cancer

What is vulval cancer?

There are more than 200 different kinds of cancer, each with its own name and treatment.

Types of vulval cancer

Vulval cancer is very rare. There are over 200 different types of vulval cancer. The most common type of vulval cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma.

Symptoms of vulval cancer

If you have any of the common symptoms of vulval cancer, see your doctor to get them checked out.

Why do cancers come back?

Sometimes, tiny cancer cells are left behind after cancer treatment. These can divide to form a new tumour.