Colposcopy is a procedure that uses an instrument with a magnifying lens and a light, called a colposcope, to examine the cervix (opening to the uterus) and vagina for abnormalities. The colposcope magnifies the image many times, thus allowing the physician to see the tissues on the cervix and vaginal walls more clearly. In some cases, a cervical biopsy, a small sample of tissue, may be taken for further examination in the lab.
The organs and structures of the female pelvis are:
Other related procedures that may be used to diagnose or treat cervical and vaginal conditions include Pap test, cervical biopsy, and loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP). Please see these procedures for additional information.
When cervical or vaginal problems are found during a pelvic examination, or abnormal cells are found during a Pap test, a colposcopy may be performed. Through the colposcope, the physician can see certain changes in cervical and vaginal tissues such as abnormal blood vessels, tissue structure, color, and patterns. Cells that appear to be abnormal, but are not cancerous at the present time, may be identified as precancerous. The appearance of these abnormal cells may be the first evidence of cancer that develops years later.
If abnormal tissue is seen during a colposcopy, a small sample of tissue (called a colposcopic biopsy) may be taken for further study. The physician may also take tissue samples from inside the cervix using an endocervical brush or endocervical curettage (ECC).
A colposcopy procedure may also be used to diagnose and assist in the treatment of the following conditions:
There may be other reasons for your physician to recommend colposcopy.
As with any surgical procedure, complications may occur. If a colposcopic biopsy is performed, some possible complications may include, but are not limited to, the following:
Patients who are allergic to or sensitive to medications, iodine, or latex should notify their physician.
If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, you should notify your physician.
If possible, a colposcopy procedure will be scheduled approximately one week after your menstrual period.
There may be other risks depending upon your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your physician prior to the procedure.
Certain factors or conditions may interfere with a colposcopy. These factors include, but are not limited to, the following:
A colposcopy may be performed in your physician’s office, on an outpatient basis, or as part of your stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your physician’s practices.
Generally, a colposcopy follows this process:
After a colposcopy procedure, you may rest for a few minutes before going home.
If you have a colposcopy with a biopsy, the recovery process will vary, depending on the type of biopsy performed and the type of anesthesia (if any) used.
If you received regional or general anesthesia, you will be taken to the recovery room for observation. Once your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing are stable and you are alert, you will be taken to your hospital room or discharged to your home. If this procedure was performed on an outpatient basis, you should plan to have another person drive you home.
You may want to wear a sanitary pad for bleeding. If a biopsy was performed, it is normal to have some mild cramping, spotting, and dark or black-colored discharge for several days. The dark discharge is from the medication applied to your cervix to control bleeding.
If a biopsy was performed, you may be instructed not to douche, use tampons, or have intercourse for one week after the procedure, or for a period of time recommended by your physician.
You may also have other restrictions on your activity, including no strenuous activity or heavy lifting.
You may resume your normal diet unless your physician advises you differently.
Take a pain reliever for cramping or soreness as directed by your physician. Aspirin or certain other pain medications may increase the chance of bleeding. Be sure to take only recommended medications.
Your physician will advise you on when to return for further treatment or care. Generally, women who have had a cervical biopsy will need more frequent Pap tests.
Notify your physician if you have any of the following:
Your physician may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician. Please consult your physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
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