Colposcopy of the Vagina or Cervix
What is a colposcopy?
A colposcopy is a microscopic examination of the cervix or vagina to diagnose potential abnormalities. The coloscope can magnify the tissue by up to 30 times, as well as illuminate the areas to be examined. A sample of tissue may be taken and sent to the lab for further evaluation. This is called a biopsy.
When is it used?
This exam will be performed after you have had abnormal Pap smear result indicating an infection, a precancerous growth, or cancer. It is also used to get a closer look at areas of the vagina, cervix, and vulva that do not look normal.
How do I prepare for a colposcopy?
Plan to have the exam when you are not having a menstrual period. Do not douche or have sexual intercourse within 24 hours of the exam. You may want to take some medication for cramps 30 minutes prior to appointment.
What happens during the procedure?
Because the cervix has little pain sensation, you will not need an anesthetic. You will lie on the examining table with your feet in stirrups, just as you do for a regular pelvic exam. Dr. Hardy will insert a speculum into your vagina. This is the same tool used during a Pap test. It will be opened slightly to spread the vagina so the cervix can be seen. Dr. Hardy will then use a swab to put a weak solution of acetic acid on your cervix or vagina. (The acid is like the acid in vinegar.) You may feel a slight stinging sensation caused by the solution, but it is not painful. The acid will turn abnormal tissue white and show abnormal blood vessel formation. It helps show where a sample of tissue should be taken. He will then place the colposcope at the opening of your vagina and then decide whether a biopsy is necessary or not. If he does perform a biopsy, he will use an instrument to pinch or cut off a small tissue sample for lab tests. You may feel a pinch or slight cramp. After the tissue is removed, Dr. Hardy may put a thick, pasty solution on the area of the biopsy. This will help prevent bleeding.
What happens after the procedure?
Dr. Hardy will tell you what he saw. The test results should be ready within 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the lab and you will follow up in 2 weeks to go over those results and also to make sure the biopsy site has healed.
You may feel a little lightheaded right after the exam. You may have to lie down for a few minutes after the exam is over. You may have some cramping for a short time afterwards.
You may have a little dark-colored, sandy discharge from the vagina for a few days after the procedure. If you had a biopsy, you may have light bleeding for up to a week. You may notice a thick black discharge after a biopsy. If so, it is caused by a thick, brownish-yellow paste that is placed on the area to help stop bleeding. When it mixes with blood, it forms a thick black discharge. This discharge may last for a few days.
If you had a biopsy, you should not douche or use tampons for 2 weeks, in order to allow the area to heal. You should also avoid having sexual intercourse for 48 to 72 hours after the procedure.
What are the benefits of this procedure?
- The Pap smear test is a good screening test but it can not diagnose how severe the abnormality is. Therefore, the colposcopy with or without a biopsy can allow Dr. Hardy to make a better diagnosis of the problem in your cervix or vagina and suggest further treatment if necessary.
- The procedure can be done without an anesthetic.
- The procedure can be done in the office rather than a hospital.
- The procedure is simple with few side effects or complications.
What are the risks associated with this procedure?
Minor bleeding from the biopsy site may occur. Other risks include:
- heavy bleeding (soaking more than one pad per hour, or more bleeding than your normal menstrual flow)
When should I call the office?
Call the office right away if:
- You have heavy bleeding.
- You have a fever over 100°F (37.8°C) 24 to 72 hours after the procedure.
- You have bleeding that lasts over 2 weeks.
- You have a foul-smelling vaginal odor or discharge.
- You have pelvic pain.