What is colposcopy?
Colposcopy is a common office procedure and is performed by your doctor to evaluate abnormal areas of the vagina and cervix. Colposcopy also is occasionally performed to evaluate lesions on the vulva.
The cervix has 2 different kinds of cells that line it. There is a smooth lining (squamous epithelium) that covers the face of the cervix, and a glandular lining (columnar epithelium) that lines the canal of the cervix. The junction of these 2 cell types is the metabolically active part of the cervix where abnormalities arise. During the colposcopy, your doctor will try to visualize this entire junction.
Abnormal areas seen with the colposcope are sampled by taking biopsies (small snips of tissue). A pathologist examines the biopsies microscopically, and can then make a definitive diagnosis of the problem.
Why has my provider recommended colposcopy?
Your provider recommended that you have a colposcopy if you had an abnormal Pap smear, an abnormal HPV test, or if there was a visible abnormality on your cervix.
Is there anything I should do before the procedure?
Be sure to schedule the colposcopy appointment on a day when you’re not having your menstrual period. In preparation for the procedure, avoid sexual intercourse and do not use any medications in your vagina the night before your appointment.
Eat normally the day of your appointment. One hour before your appointment take 600 mg of ibuprofen (3 tablets of 200 mg over the counter strength).
What will happen during the procedure?
You will lie on an examination table, just as you would for a Pap smear. Your doctor will insert a speculum into the vagina to hold it open. Then, a vinegar solution will be applied to the cervix to make the abnormal areas more visible. You may feel a slight burning at this time. Next, your doctor will look through an instrument called a colposcope, which provides magnification, to examine the cervix. Small samples (biopsies) will be taken of any abnormal areas. Medication will be applied to the biopsy site to reduce the bleeding. Your doctor may also take a sample from the cervical canal called an endocervical curettage.
Will it hurt?
When biopsies are taken, most women experience a deep, menstrual– like cramp that fades quickly. Your doctor will ask you to take slow, deep breaths as the biopsies are taken. Cervical biopsies take several seconds. The endocervical curettage takes 30 seconds. Most women are pain free when they leave the office.
How much time will a colposcopy take?
The procedure takes between 15 to 30 minutes, but allow for an hour or so in the office.
How will I feel following a colposcopy?
After the procedure, you may experience mild cramping from the biopsy which can last for several hours. Spotting or light bleeding can persist for 3-5 days. You may also have some discharge for the next several days from the solutions applied during the procedure.
When can I resume my regular schedule?
It is best to avoid sexual intercourse and tampons for several days following a colposcopy procedure if biopsies are taken. Most women feel comfortable resuming normal activities the same day as the colposcopy.
Is colposcopy safe?
Colposcopy is a safe procedure. Very occasionally, someone will experience nausea or fainting during the procedure (about as often as this happens with drawing blood.) Complications afterwards are unusual, but can include heavy bleeding, infection or ongoing pain. Please return to the office immediately if you experience heavy bleeding, lower abdominal pain with fever or abnormal discharge, or cramping not relieved by ibuprofen.
What is the next step?
Your doctor will arrange a follow-up visit to discuss the results of the biopsy and a further plan of management.
If you have additional questions after reading this, please call 812-855-7558.