TESTS AND PROCEDURES

Understanding Vulvar Biopsy

By Wheeler, Brooke 
 | 
March 21, 2017

Understanding Vulvar Biopsy

A vulvar biopsy is a test to check for vulvar cancer or another skin disease. The vulva is the outer part of a woman’s genitals. During a biopsy, small pieces of tissue are taken from areas of skin that look abnormal. The tissue is then checked in a lab for cancer cells and other types of skin disease.

How to say it

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Why a vulvar biopsy is done

A vulvar biopsy may be done if you have patches of skin on your vulva that look abnormal. This includes:

  • Areas of skin that are white, or turn white after a special acetic acid solution is applied

  • Patches of skin that are red, pink, gray, brown, or bumpy

  • A sore that doesn’t heal

  • Genital warts that don’t go away

How a vulvar biopsy is done

The biopsy is a quick procedure. It’s often done in a healthcare provider’s office. You may be told to take over-the-counter pain medicine before the biopsy. This can help prevent pain after the biopsy. During the procedure:

  • The skin in the area is cleaned with a chemical solution. The healthcare provider will put medicine on the skin to numb it. Then he or she will inject a medicine into the area to help prevent pain during the biopsy.

  • When the area is numb, the provider will take a sample of the skin with a small, sharp tool. He or she may take a thin slice of the skin. Or the provider may take a larger piece. In some cases, the entire patch of skin will be removed. Your healthcare provider will tell you which kind of biopsy you will have.

  • If the provider takes a larger piece of skin, the area will then be closed with stitches (sutures).

  • You will be told how to care for the area after the biopsy to help it heal.

The tissue removed during the biopsy is then checked by a special doctor called a pathologist. You will get the results in about a week. Your healthcare provider will tell you if you need any follow-up tests. This may include another biopsy.

Risks of a vulvar biopsy

  • Pain

  • Infection

  • Bleeding

  • Blood blister (hematoma)

  • Bruising

  • Loss of skin color in the area (hypopigmentation)

  • Scarring

Updated:  

March 21, 2017

Sources:  

Brotzman GL, et al. Vulvar Biopsy. In: Pfenninger JL, et al, editors. Pfenninger and Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 3 ed. Phildelphia: Mosby; 2011. p. 1091-4., M T, et al. Vulvar Biopsy. In: Tuggy M, editor. Atlas of Essential Procedures. Philadelphia: Elsevier; 2011. p. 93-6., Margesson L. Vulvar lesions: Diagnostic evaluation. Up To Date. August 28 ed: Up To Date; 2014. p. 19., Mayeaux EJ, et al. Vulvar Procedures. Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics. 2013 December 12;40(4):759-22.

Reviewed By:  

Burd, Irina, MD, PhD,Ziegler, Olivia, MS, PA