Screening for cervical cancer (either by Pap test and/or HPV testing) is an important part of staying healthy and avoiding cervical cancer. If your pap smear showed abnormal results, your physician at Louisiana Women’s Healthcare may perform a colposcopy to take a closer look at your cervix. This procedure will help confirm, diagnose and help treat potential problems.
A colposcopy is a procedure which allows your doctor to get a clear look at your cervix, vagina and vulva using an instrument called a colposcope. A colposcope is a microscope with a bright light that enlarges the usual view of your tissues. If your doctor finds any abnormal areas during your colposcopy, he or she takes a sample and sends it to a lab for examination. Depending on your results, more testing may be needed to help prevent cancer from developing in the future.
The doctors at Louisiana Women’s Healthcare recommend a colposcopy when problems or abnormal cells appear during either your pelvic exam or your Pap test. Colposcopy is also recommended to diagnose:
Repeat colposcopies allow your doctor to check treatment results.
You prepare for a colposcopy at Louisiana Women’s Healthcare the same way you do for a routine pelvic exam. First, your doctor will insert a speculum to open the vaginal walls, just like when you have a Pap smear. Then, your provider will wash your cervix with a vinegar-like solution. Next, the doctor will use the colposcope to inspect your cervix. Your doctor can get a much better look at your cervix with a colposcope than with the naked eye. If your doctor sees cells that are concerning, they will do a biopsy, meaning a tiny piece of tissue will be removed and then sent to a lab for examination. If the suspicious area is small enough, your doctor may be able to remove all of it during the biopsy. The whole procedure should only take five to 10 minutes.
After your colposcopy, some bleeding and mild cramping occur for up to a week, and your vagina may be sore. It’s best to avoid tampons, douches, vaginal creams and vaginal intercourse for a week, especially if you had tissue removed. If you have a biopsy and it shows precancerous tissue, it may need to be removed. Your doctor will explain the different methods of removing the tissue that may be right for you.