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Further tests

Even after a diagnosis is made, further tests are often needed to determine the size and position of the cancer, and whether it has spread. This process is called staging.

The results will help you and your doctor decide on the best treatment for you.

The following tests are most often used with cancer of the vulva.

Blood test

A sample of your blood is taken to check the number of cells in your blood and to see how well your kidneys and liver are working.

Chest x-ray

This is taken to check that your lungs and heart are healthy.

CT scan

A CT (computerised tomography) scan is a series of x-rays that builds up a three-dimensional picture of the inside of the body.

The scan is painless and takes between 10 and 30 minutes.

Before the scan you will be asked to drink a special liquid that shows up on x-ray. You may also need to have an injection of a contrast medium into a vein in your arm.

People who are allergic to iodine may also be allergic to the dye used in a CT or MRI scan. If you think you may have such an allergy, tell your doctor before the scan.


MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is similar to a CT scan, but uses a magnetic field instead of x-rays to build up cross-sectional pictures of your body. Some people are given an injection of dye into a vein in the arm to improve the image.

During the test you will be asked to lie very still on a couch inside a long chamber for up to an hour.

An MRI is painless but some people find that lying in the cylinder is noisy and claustrophobic. If you feel uncomfortable, you can communicate with the technologist who is carrying out the scan through a microphone and speaker inside the scanner. You will also be able to see the technologist through a window.

Examination under anaesthetic

This is an examination of the vulva carried out under a general anaesthetic. It allows the doctor to examine you thoroughly without causing any discomfort, and to check the extent of the cancer.


A procedure to look inside the bladder and urethra to check for abnormal areas. A cystoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted through the urethra into the bladder. Tissue samples may be taken for biopsy.


A procedure to look inside the rectum and anus to check for abnormal areas. A proctoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted into the anus and rectum. Tissue samples may be taken for biopsy.

Intravenous pyelogram

A series of x-rays of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder to find out if cancer has spread to these organs. A contrast dye is injected into a vein. As the contrast dye moves through the kidneys, ureters and bladder, x-rays are taken to see if there are any blockages. This procedure is also called intravenous urography.