The colposcopy is a procedure to look at your cervix and vagina through a microscope to identify areas that appear abnormal. During a colposcopy your provider uses a colposcope, which is an instrument that looks like a large microscope to obtain a magnified view of your cervix.
Your provider may recommend a colposcopy if your pap test or HPV testing has shown abnormal results. This procedure is used to determine if further treatment is needed for possible precancerous or cancerous lesions of the cervix and/or surrounding areas.
This procedure is done in the office and does not require an anesthetic. Your provider will often take tiny tissue samples (biopsies) of the cervix and send it to a pathologist for a diagnosis. A colposcopy and biopsy usually take about 10 minutes. A patient can anticipate some mild, short-lived discomfort during the biopsies, which most women describe as menstrual cramping or sharp pinches.
Most women return to work and their daily activities immediately following the procedure, but some report feeling sore for a few days. You may have a slight discharge and it is recommended to wear a pantyliner or light pad for a few days. It is also recommended to refrain from inserting anything into the vagina for about 5 days following the procedure to allow the cervix to heal from the biopsies.
It is unusual to have problems after a colposcopy. If biopsies are taken there is always a small risk of bleeding or infection. You should notify your provider after the procedure if you experience heavy bleeding (be sure it is not your period of course), abnormal discharge or vaginal odor, severe pain or fever.
It is customary to return to the office approximately 2 weeks following the procedure to have a discussion with your provider about the results of the colposcopy and the biopsies. It is at this visit that your provider will discuss possible further treatments and/or proper follow-up with surveillance pap tests.
It all depends on the degree of the abnormality. Some abnormal cells require nothing more than repeat pap test and other tests to monitor. Other times it is necessary to treat the pre-cancerous cells, which can be done with procedures in the office to actually remove the cells. Your provider will discuss this with you at your 2-week follow up appointment after the procedure.
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