Understanding Colposcopy

A colposcopy is a procedure that helps diagnose any abnormalities in the cervix, vagina, and vulva. This procedure is done to get a closer view of the affected area or to view an expanded area. It is usually done with the help of a colposcope, an instrument similar to a microscope.

Preparation for Colposcopy Procedure

Before a colposcopy is done, your doctor may ask you a few questions about your general health and menstrual cycle. You may also be instructed to avoid douching, intercourse, and tampons for a few days before the procedure. As with most other medical tests, it is important not to be sexually active before the colposcopy. During the procedure, it is common to be offered a mild sedative or numbing solution in order to displace any discomfort.

How is a Colposcopy Procedure Performed?

A colposcopy is performed in an outpatient setting. During the procedure, you will be positioned in an exam chair with your feet in stirrups, just like during a regular pelvic exam. A colposcope will be placed just inches from your face to provide a magnified view of your cervix and vagina. The doctor will use a dilute acidic solution to stain any abnormal tissue, making it easier to see. The doctor may also take a biopsy of the suspicious tissue.

Types of Colposcopy Procedure

  • Endocervical Colposcopy – A specialized colposcopic exam of the uterine cervix.
  • Flexible Colposcop – Used to look inside the uterus and detect abnormal growths.
  • Loop Electrosurgical Excision (LEEP) Colposcopy – A medical procedure to remove abnormal cells from the cervix.
  • Colpohysteroscopy – A procedure involving a colposcope combined with a hysteroscope, allowing for a detailed visual inspection of the uterine cervix and upper vagina.

Why Might a Colposcopy be Needed?

Your doctor might recommend a colposcopy if a Pap smear or pelvic exam reveals abnormal cells. A colposcopy can help identify precancerous cells and diagnose other illnesses. Other indications for a colposcopy include persistent itching in the genital area, abnormal bleeding, and a history of having contracted a sexually transmitted infection.

When to Expect Results?

The results of a colposcopy are usually available within a few days. Depending on the type of procedure and the laboratory used, results can be received as early as the same day.

Risks Associated with Colposcopy

The risks associated with colposcopy are minimal. Some women might experience a burning sensation during the procedure due to the acidic solution used to make abnormal cells more visible. Other risks include uterine perforation, bleeding after the biopsy, and infection. It is important to speak to your doctor to understand the potential risks of the procedure before proceeding.