Colposcopy is a diagnostic procedure to look for any early signs of abnormality in the cervix. In this procedure, the healthcare provider uses an instrument called the colposcope (a large electric microscope) to examine the cervical cells.
Why Would You Need A Colposcopy?
You may need to get a colposcopy if your Pap smear results come back positive. This means there is some abnormality in the cervix and colposcopy can confirm if there is presence of any precancerous or cancerous cells. It can also help diagnose a genital wart or inflammation of the cervix (cervicitis). You should also get a colposcopy done if you experience bleeding after sex or if you can visually see any abnormal growth in the outer membranes of your genital area.
When Can You Schedule A Colposcopy?
Colposcopy should be ideally done between your periods as the vaginal bleeding during the periods can obstruct the view of the cervix. You should not use any vaginal products (tampons, douches, etc) and avoid sex a couple of days before the procedure. In case you have a low pain tolerance, you may take an over-the-counter painkiller before your appointment.
What Happens During A Colposcopy?
At your appointment, you will be asked 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. The doctor will then use either vinegar (acetic acid) or iodine solution to douse your vagina so that abnormal cells change color and become easy to identify. After that, the doctor will place the colposcope at the entrance to your vagina, but the instrument will not touch or enter it. The doctor will look for signs of abnormality and if needed, can scrape off a small sample of cells from the cervix for a biopsy specimen. Patients typically experience mild pressure and some cramping as a result of this biopsy. Patients can go home immediately after the procedure.
What Are The Precautions To Be Taken After A Colposcopy?
It is recommended to avoid vaginal sex after the procedure. You should also avoid feminine hygiene products (douches, tampons, spermicidal creams etc.) during this time. You should not take a bath as the vagina and cervix are very sensitive during this period. It is normal to experience some cramping and period-like pain for a few days after the procedure. You can take an over-the-counter pain killer for relief from these symptoms. During this period, the patients may notice a dark colored vaginal discharge (brown or dark red), which could be a result of the biopsy. This discharge is completely normal and is a residue of the medication applied to the cervix to accelerate healing. If this discharge continues even after six weeks of the procedure or if the bleeding is heavier than during normal periods, then you should see your doctor.
How Long Does It Take To Get Results Back From A Colposcopy?
Typically it takes somewhere between a couple of weeks to maximum a month to get back the results from a colposcopy. If your colposcopy came back normal, the doctor may recommend further testing to understand why your Pap smear was abnormal.
If a biopsy was performed during your colposcopy, the results should identify if there is presence of any abnormal cervical cells, any precancerous cells or signs of invasive cancer. Once the abnormal cells are identified, they should be removed so that they do not turn into cancerous cells. This can either be done during colposcopy if the abnormality is obvious or it may be performed once the biopsy results are obtained. Hence, based on the results of your colposcopy and biopsy, your healthcare provider can either order further tests or start you on a treatment plan.
- Colposcopy: Indications, Benefits, Procedure, Principles, Complications, Contraindications
- Why is a Colposcopy Performed?