62-year-old Tess comes to the emergency department with vaginal bleeding for the past couple of hours. She also mentions that she has occasionally noticed some watery, foul-smelling vaginal discharge. After ensuring that she is hemodynamically stable, history reveals that her last menstrual period was about 10 years ago and she has had multiple sexual partners. On speculum examination, a suspicious-looking mass is identified in the upper third of the posterior vaginal wall.
Later that day, 69-year-old Oshun comes to the physician's office complaining of an intense burning sensation, itching and pain in her genital region. Her last menstrual period was at the age of 48. On further history, she has been smoking 1.5 packs daily for 40 years. On examination, a white, asymmetrical lump with irregular borders and 1.2 cm in size is seen in the right labia majora.
All right, both Tess and Oshun have some type of vaginal or vulvar condition. Let’s take a look at the Anatomy real quick. The external sex organs, together referred to as the vulva, contain the labia majora, which cover the labia minora, and between the two labia minora there is a space called the vulvar vestibule that includes the opening of the vagina and the the urethral opening. Now, vaginal and vulvar conditions are classified into non- neoplastic ones including bartholin cyst, lichen sclerosus, lichen simplex chronicus, and imperforate hymen and neoplastic ones, which are relatively rare cancers of the female genital tract.
Okay, let’s start with the first non-neoplastic condition, which is the Bartholin cyst. The Bartholin glands are two small glands that lie underneath the vestibule and on each side of the vaginal opening. Normally, they secrete a mucus- like fluid that drains through ducts into the vestibule in order to lubricate the vagina. But when their ducts get blocked, the fluid builds up, causing cystic dilation of the gland. For your exams, remember that blockage typically occurs in females of reproductive age as a result of a mucus plug or a sexually-transmitted infection, and especially, Neisseria gonorrhoea. If the cyst itself gets infected, an abscess occurs.