Screening for cervical cancer is a vital part of staying healthy. If your Pap test or human papillomavirus test shows an abnormality, further testing will be required. This way, your family doctor or gynecologist can verify the findings and determine the severity of the problem. Colposcopy is the additional test that’s often prescribed in this situation. The procedure closely examines the cervix using magnification.
Healthcare providers recommend colposcopy to locate abnormal cells that may become malignant. The test can detect signs of disease in the cervix, vagina, and vulva. Your doctor will spot minor changes in these areas through the colposcope. These changes may include abnormal blood vessels, color, tissue structures, and patterns. These cells that seem strange may be the first signs of cancer that could develop years later. They sometimes refer to these abnormal but not yet cancerous cells as precancerous. A colposcopy can also find other health problems like polyps and genital warts. Nevertheless, this test is generally not advised for women who have already gone through menopause. This is because the minor cell changes could be due to a natural decrease in estrogen levels.
A colposcopy may be performed in the clinic of your doctor or gynecologist. The test usually takes only about five to 10 minutes and causes minimal discomfort. Your doctor will ask you to lie down on the exam table. He or she will insert a medical tool called a speculum to spread open the vagina. This will give them a better view of the cervix. The doctor will then gently wipe acetic acid or iodine solution on the cervix, vagina, and vulva. The liquid is meant to highlight any abnormal areas, allowing the doctor to see them more clearly. You may feel a cold, somewhat burning sensation when this solution is applied. But it won’t hurt. Your doctor will then position the colposcope between your legs. A colposcope is like a microscope on a stand. It will be placed as close to your vagina as possible. But it will not touch you, nor will it go inside your body. A colposcopy is generally painless. However, the procedure may lead to some mild cramping. Since the speculum will be placed inside longer than during a routine pelvic examination, it can cause some discomfort.
It’s also possible that a biopsy will be carried out during a colposcopy. When this happens, the patient may experience a brief, sharp pain or mild cramping during the procedure. A cervical biopsy involves removing a small piece of cervical or vaginal tissue that appears abnormal. The tissue sample will be sent to a laboratory for examination. You may feel sore or have vaginal bleeding and discharge after a biopsy. Note that having a biopsy doesn’t necessarily mean that you have precancerous cells.
Do you have questions about your pelvic exam results? Has your doctor prescribed a colposcopy? Your Partners in Obstetrics & Women’s Health can schedule this test for you. Call our office in New Lenox, Illinois now, at (815) 240-0554 to book an appointment.