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
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
Blood blister (hematoma)
Loss of skin color in the area (hypopigmentation)
March 21, 2017
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.
Burd, Irina, MD, PhD,Ziegler, Olivia, MS, PA