Colposcopy

A colposcopy is a procedure performed by your doctor, who uses an advanced pair of medical binoculars (referred to as a colposcope) to closely examine your cervix, vagina, and vulva for signs of disease.

If your pap test or pelvic exam has come up as abnormal, your doctor may recommend a colposcopy. Pap tests are one of medicine’s great public health success stories. Because of the advent of pap tests, rates of cervical cancer in the United States has fallen by over 50% in the last three decades.

The following factors are recurring themes and characteristics shared among most cervical cancer patients:

Diagnosing with a Colposcopy

Colposcopy is used to diagnose a variety of diseases and abnormalities, such as:

Preparing for a Colposcopy

There are five main rules to follow when preparing for your colposcopy:

The Procedure

This twenty-minute procedure is usually done in your doctor’s office. As you lie on your back with your feet in stirrups, the doctor will place a speculum into your vagina. This speculum holds your vaginal walls open so your doctor can see your cervix. Then he or she positions the colposcope a few inches away from your vulva. The bright light attached to these vaginal binoculars shines a light into your vagina and allows the doctor to examine your sex organs in as much detail as possible, without resorting to exploratory surgery.  Your doctor will wipe away mucus in your cervix and vagina with a cotton swab before applying a vinegar based solution to this area. This vinegar solution helps to highlight areas of suspicious cell growth. If your doctor finds an unusual area of cells during a colposcopy, a sample of your tissue will be collected and tested in a lab for signs of cancer (biopsy).

The type of tissue removed for your biopsy dictates how much pain you experience during removal. Two biopsy variations that are utilized during a colposcopy are:

Risks and Complications with a Colposcopy

Getting a colposcopy is relatively safe, and there are very few risks involved. Rarely, complications can occur during your colposcopy. These complications include:

colposcopyBenefits of a Colposcopy

Unlike the pap smear, which only suggests an abnormality being present in and around the vagina, a colposcopy with a biopsy can provide a definite diagnosis of pre-cancerous changes in the cervix. This diagnosis allows your doctor to prevent cervical cancer from forming by catching cervical abnormalities early and responding with the appropriate treatment plan.

You should use a pad to catch any blood or discharge that comes out of your vagina. Avoid tampons, douching, and intercourse for at least a week after your biopsy.

Post-Op Warning Signs

Call your doctor if you experience any of these signs or symptoms after your colposcopy, as they could be indications of infection:

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