It's a muscular tube that extands from the vulva to the cervix, a muscular ring at the base of the uterus. It's about 3 inches long, which is a little worrying, since the erect penis is about 6, so presumably the penis corrugates or something like that.
This is the external part of the female genitalia. It has several layers worth knowing about:
- Mons pubis – the rounded fatty lump over the top of the pubic bones.
- Labia major – the outer layer, the skin surrounding the vulva
- Labia minor – inside the first ring of the labial tissue, this is a fold that contains the urethral and vaginal openings, and has the clitoris at the upper apex.
- Hymen – A thin film of tissue around the entrance of the vagina. In virgins, generally this remains intact, becoming broken on the first instance of intercourse. However, sometimes it can break before this point, through vigorous exercise or similar.
The female equivalent of the penis – it even contains erectile tissue! Looks a little bit like a small willy, with the head, also called the glans, and the shaft connecting it above. Attached either side is the v-shaped corpus cavernosum, which contains nerve fibres believed to be involved in orgasm. The clitoris can be covered by a fold of skin called the clitoral hood.
The diagram shows the bits of the cervix that are important. Hopefully, the internal and external os are fairly self-explanatory - they're the holes at each end of the cervix, the former going into the uterus, the latter the vagina. The endocervical canal is essentially the bit in the middle between the ora (plural of os - weird, eh). The ectocervix is the bit of the cervix which projects into the vagina.
- Candiasis – fungal, common in immunosuppressed and diabetic.
- Syphilis – STD, spots and stuff, swelling.
- Herpes – STD, painful ulceration, swelling.
- Granuloma inguinale – STD, found in tropics, chronic vulvar ulceration
So, as a general guide, vaginal warts? STD.
Cancer of the vulva
Squamous carcinoma is relatively rare, but quite serious. Even mildly invasive forms tend to have lymph node involvement, which is attached to a poor prognosis.
Non-specific inflammation of the cervix is common, especially with presence of an intrauterine device. Can also be caused by Chlamydia.
Benign polyps are common, often associated with acute or chronic inflammation. No malignant potential
Squamous neoplasia is relatively common. Risk factors:
- Early first intercourse
- Frequency of intercourse
- Number of partners
- Human papilloma virus infection
- Smear tests are a screening program that prevents upto 90% of cervical cancer.