What is a Colposcopy?

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A colposcopy is a diagnostic medical procedure that examines the cervix, vulva, and vagina. It is done when a pap smear detects atypical cells or if abnormal areas are seen on the cervix, vagina, or vulva by your medical provider. Such abnormal cells are usually harmless but have the possibility to develop into cancer. A colposcopy further investigates by examining the cervix, vulva, and vagina using magnification to determine the presence, absence and/or severity of the abnormal growths. Our medical providers at Women’s Health Care will only recommend a colposcopy if it is determined necessary.

While the thought of having a colposcopy may seem daunting, the procedure itself is rather simple. During your visit at Women’s Health Care, your medical provider will be sure to put you at ease by going over the procedure and answering all questions. Colposcopy is performed similar to a routine pelvic examination on an exam table. The healthcare provider will use an instrument called a speculum to separate the vagina and look at your cervix using a colposcope. A solution called acetic acid is then used to highlight any abnormal areas making them easier to visualize.

During colposcopy, your health care provider may remove a small piece of abnormal tissue (a biopsy) from the cervix or vagina. This tissue will be sent to a laboratory and examined by a pathologist. If biopsies are done, a yellow-brown solution may be applied to your cervix; this acts as a liquid bandage. Minimal bleeding and cramping may be experienced. Most women are able to return to work or school immediately after having a colposcopy.

In most cases, the colposcopist will be able to tell you immediately if there were any abnormal areas of concern. If biopsies were taken, you might have to wait 1-2 weeks for the results of the pathology report. The results will indicate if any abnormal cells are present and if treatment is warranted. Not all women getting colposcopy will require treatment; most women will need a follow-up test such as a repeat pap smear and/or colposcopy within 1 year.

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