Colposcopy is a diagnostic procedure to look for any early signs of abnormality in the cervix.
Why Did Your Healthcare Provider Recommend You A Colposcopy?
You may be recommended to perform colposcopy if the results of your Pap smear came back abnormal. The Pap smear is a screening test that examines the cell changes on your cervix. Cases when a Pap smear may prompt your healthcare provider to order a colposcopy are: two back to back Pap test showing high-risk strain of human papillomavirus (HPV), cervical cell abnormality with presence of high-risk strain of HPV, Pap smear showing “high grade” changes and presence of abnormal cells/HPV after a previous colposcopy.
Now, abnormal Pap smear results alone are not conclusive as it is very common to have abnormal Pap smear results and yet not have any form of cervical cancer. This is why your healthcare provider may follow you up with a colposcopy. A colposcopy is a more thorough diagnostic procedure that uses a microscope to observe the cells of your cervix and determine if there is any abnormal cell growth/activity.
What Happens During A Colposcopy?
At our colposcopy appointment, you will be asked to undress and change into a hospital gown. The gynecologist will ask you to lie on the exam table with your feet in stirrups in a manner similar to your routine pelvic exam. The doctor will then insert a tool called the speculum into your vagina so that your vaginal walls can be opened up and the cervix within can be visible. Then, the doctor may douse your vagina with either vinegar (acetic acid) or iodine solution. The objective is to make the abnormal cells appear different in color from the healthy cervical cells and so easy to identify. After a few minutes, the doctor will place the colposcope at the entrance of your vagina.
The colposcope is a tool that acts like a large microscope and magnifies the cells of the cervix. The colposcope will only be at the entrance of your vagina and will not enter it. The doctor will then start observing the cervical cells to look for any sign of abnormality. This should typically not take more than 10 to 15 minutes. If the doctor finds some sign of abnormality, doctor will scrape those cells to get a small sample that will be sent to lab for further testing. This additional step is called the biopsy. Patients typically experience mild pressure and some cramping as a result of this biopsy. You can go home immediately after the procedure.
Can I Take A Hot Bath After A Colposcopy?
Normally, it takes four to six weeks for the cervix to completely heal. There are certain precautions to be followed during this healing period to reduce the risk of developing an infection. It is recommended avoiding taking a bath for at least 72 hours after the procedure. It would be best if bath’s can be avoided for the full six weeks it generally takes for the cervix to completely heal. Instead of a bath, it is recommended to shower during this recovery period.
What Are The Other After-Care Precautions To Be Taken After Colposcopy?
Apart from bathing, you should also avoid vaginal intercourse and use of feminine hygiene products (douches, tampons, spermicidal creams etc.) until the time your cervix completely heals. If you had a biopsy, you may experience some dark colored vaginal discharge for a few weeks after the procedure. This is completely normal and should not be cause for worry. If this bleeding is heavier than your normal period or if this continues after six weeks of the procedure, you should consult your healthcare provider.
You should receive the results of your colposcopy in a few weeks to a month after the procedure. The results of the colposcopy can determine if you need any further test or treatment.
- Colposcopy: Indications, Benefits, Procedure, Principles, Complications, Contraindications
- Why is a Colposcopy Performed?