What Is Colposcopy?
Colposcopy is a procedure whereby the surface of a woman’s genital area undergoes direct, magnified inspection. The procedure covers areas such as the vulva, vagina, and cervix using a binocular microscope and a light source. The inspection is conducted in situations where doctors suspect the presence of potentially cancerous cells, after a Pap smear procedure. The doctor may follow the procedure with a biopsy (taking a sample) of the abnormal tissue. Colposcopy is used to identify infectious or inflammatory changes, traumatic injuries to the vagina, cervix or vulva, and harmless and harmful growths. It’s a highly specialized inspection that should be done by an experienced Winter Park OB/GYN.
Although the procedure is relatively safe, there could minor risks, for instance, abdominal or pelvic pain, infection and vaginal bleeding. There is always a chance that the doctor may still not be able to detect a problem or take biopsies after a colposcopy, but the procedure generally improves that doctor’s ability to sample the tissue.
Preparation for a colposcopy is similar to that of any other gynecological procedure. Schedule the procedure at a time when you’re not on your period. Avoid sexual intercourse, douching or tampons, and vaginal medications at least 24 hours before the exam. The doctor may recommend taking some pain medication an hour before the procedure, although this depends on whether you’re allergic to acetaminophen (like Panadol and Tylenol). Ibuprofen and aspirin may be used but this is not recommended as these drugs have anti-platelet effects, which may increase bleeding.
The procedure may last up to 30 minutes. The doctor will begin inspection by inserting a metal speculum into your vagina, using water for lubrication. Using a jelly may interfere with the analysis of the specimen. Using a magnifying lens, the doctor will inspect the cervix and vaginal areas, while an assistant regularly applies small amounts of saline solution to keep the reproductive area moist.
Following the inspection, the doctor will apply an acetic acid preparation, which will feel cool, and continue his or her inspection. The doctor will then decide whether or not to perform a biopsy. Iodine may be used as a special stain to see certain areas of the cervix. If any abnormalities are discovered, the doctor will perform a biopsy or an endocervical curettage. During the biopsy, you will feel a pinching sensation that lasts for a few minutes, while the endocervical curettage may cause a cramping feeling, which also doesn’t last long. The tissue specimen will then be taken to the laboratory for further inspection under a microscope.
To determine the final results of the procedure, the doctor uses several findings from the examination. If there were any areas of abnormality on the cervix, the acetic acid makes them stand out. The biopsy specimen undergoes microscopic examination in a pathological lab, with the aid of special chemicals. The normal cells will be isolated from the abnormal cells and studied. A final report will be sent to you.
The lab results may take a few days to be ready. Once the findings are out, the doctor will discuss them with you, either over the telephone or during an office visit. Unless other arrangements have already been made, call the doctor if you don’t have the results after 2 weeks.