Colposcopy is a procedure carried out after some abnormal cervical screening tests. It involves a detailed examination of the neck of the womb (cervix), vulva and vagina using a special microscope called a colposcope. It allows the doctor, or specialist nurse, to see the extent of the abnormal cells and the degree of change in the cells.
Why do I need a colposcopy?
- An abnormal cervical screening test result
- You have had a number of inadequate cervical screening tests due to too much blood or mucus present around your cervix at the time of your cervical screening test or too few cells were removed during the procedure
- Suspicious smear for human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Check a sore or other problem (such as genital warts) found on or around the vagina and cervix
- Take one copy of your pap smear test result
- Postpone colposcopy if your period starts
- You should avoid sex and not wear a tampon for 24 hours before your colposcopy
- wear a loose, full skirt on the day of your colposcopy
Colposcopy is usually done by a gynecologist, a family medicine physician, or a nurse practitioner who has been trained to do the test. The whole procedure normally takes about 15-20 minutes. An instrument called a speculum will be inserted into your vagina. It is gently opened to bring the neck of the womb (cervix), at the top of the vagina, into view and it may feel some discomfort. Doctor looks through the microscope at the vagina and cervix. Vinegar (acetic acid) or iodine (Lugol’s solution) may be used on your cervix to make abnormal areas more visible. If areas of abnormal tissue are found on the cervix, your doctor will take a small sample (cervical biopsy) of the tissue. Usually several samples are taken. The samples is then examined in even closer detail in the laboratory.In rare cases, a cervical biopsy can cause an infection or bleeding. Bleeding can usually be stopped by using a special liquid or swab on the area.
- You are likely to have a small amount of bleeding, this can last for 3 to 5 days and you should wear a sanitary pad.
- You should not have sex or use vaginal creams, tampons or pessaries until the bleeding has stopped.
- Follow any instructions your doctor gave you.
- Call your doctor if you have: Heavy vaginal bleeding (more than a normal menstrual period), a fever, Belly pain and Bad-smelling vaginal discharge.
Biopsy result and treatment
When a small sample of tissue (a biopsy) has been taken, it is sent to the laboratory for further examination under a microscope. The cell abnormality that can be seen is called cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN). Most of CIN1 return to normal without treatment. CIN2 or 3 are likely need treatment.
There are a number of different treatments available for CIN. The treatment that you have will depend on the extent of your abnormality as well as what treatment the clinic has available and the preference of the doctor or nurse. Treatment options include:
- Loop Diathermy: a thin wire loop cuts through and removes the abnormal area of cells.
- Cryotherapy: freezing the affected area of the cervix which destroys the abnormal cells.
- Laser Treatment: this destroys or cuts away abnormal cells.