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What Is a Colposcopy?

If your pap smear has come back abnormal, your healthcare provider may recommend a colposcopy. A colposcopy is an in-office procedure that allows your doctor to closely examine your cervix for cell abnormalities.

Using a colposcope, a special magnifying instrument, your doctor will look to see if there are changes on the surface of your cervix or problems that cannot be seen with the naked eye. If your doctor sees any abnormal areas, they may perform a biopsy.

Is a Colposcopy a Common Procedure?

If your pap smear result comes back abnormal and your provider suggests a colposcopy, try not to worry. It does not mean you have cancer. It means some of the cells of the cervix look different from the normal cells, and a more thorough examination is recommended. A colposcopy is a safe and common procedure done to prevent future cervical disease or cancer.

Learn more about abnormal pap smears and the importance of screening for Cervical Cancer here.

What Should I Expect During My Colposcopy Visit?

Below is an overview of what happens during a colposcopy procedure and biopsy.

  • During your visit, your doctor will start by placing a speculum, just as they have done for the pap smear. Your doctor will then use the colposcope, which is placed just outside the vagina, and look at the cervix.

  • Your doctor will then apply a vinegar or iodine solution to your cervix, which will help any abnormal cells stand out. The solution may feel like a cold sensation when applied.

  • If any abnormal areas stand out to your doctor, he or she may then decide to take a biopsy (a small sample of the tissue). During the biopsy, you may feel some cramping or pressure. Once the small sample has been removed from the cervix, it is then sent to the lab to be examined.

  • Because the cervical canal cannot be visualized to detect any problems beyond the outside of the cervix, your doctor may then use an instrument to collect cells from the inside of the cervical canal. This process is called endocervical curettage. This, again, will feel like further cramping.

The entire procedure will typically take no more than 20 minutes. Cramping during the procedure is normal.

What if I Have My Period on the Day of the Colposcopy?

A colposcopy procedure cannot be done effectively if you are bleeding in any way. It’s important to schedule your colposcopy around your period, and you must cancel your appointment if you are bleeding on the day of the procedure.

Is a Colposcopy Procedure Painful?

During a colposcopy, you may experience slight discomfort or pressure when the speculum goes in. Because a colposcopy may require that biopsies be taken, we encourage you to take (2) Advil a half hour before your appointment (unless you are allergic). The amount of discomfort varies from patient to patient, with mild cramping at the time of the biopsy being the most common complaint. This procedure is typically not associated with much pain apart from mild cramping related to the biopsies.

How Can I Prepare for My Colposcopy Appointment?

There are a few things you can do to prepare for your colposcopy to help make it as comfortable as possible, including:

  • Avoid shaving — Because the doctor will be applying a solution that may cause a burning sensation to freshly shaved skin, it is recommended you do not shave your pubic area for at least three days prior to this procedure.

  • Schedule accordingly — Schedule your colposcopy for when you don't have your period and no bleeding is present. This makes it easier for your doctor to see your cervix during the procedure. If your period is irregular and you start bleeding the day your colposcopy is scheduled, you should call the office to reschedule.

  • Abstain from vaginal activities — Refrain from engaging in vaginal intercourse or inserting anything into your vagina, such as fingers or sex toys, the day before your colposcopy procedure.

If you are nervous or unsure of anything prior to or during the visit, always express your concerns to your OBGYN doctor. They can answer any questions you have and make you feel as comfortable and safe as possible throughout your colposcopy procedure.

Can I Resume Normal Activities After the Colposcopy?

Yes, you will be able to return to your normal activities immediately after this procedure. Discuss with your doctor any limitations on intercourse he or she may request. It is recommended not to use any tampons for about a week after the procedure.

Will I Have Bleeding After the Colposcopy?

You can expect some vaginal bleeding or spotting that lasts 2-3 days after a biopsy is taken. It can sometimes resemble dark coffee ground-like material. This is normal and comes from the medication used to stop the initial bleeding. Call the office if you experience heavy bleeding (soaking a pad every half hour).

What Are the Dangers and Risks Associated With a Colposcopy?

A colposcopy is a safe procedure and carries very little risk or danger. If a biopsy is needed, some complications may occur, such as heavy bleeding or infection. However, these complications are very rare. The benefits of detecting and addressing cervical abnormalities typically outweigh the potential risks associated with a colposcopy.

When Will I Get My Results From the Colposcopy?

You will receive a call or MyChart message from your doctor about one week after your colposcopy to discuss results and treatment plan. If you do not hear from us, please call.

My Colposcopy Confirmed Abnormal Cells: Now What?

If your colposcopy biopsy result reveals early cases of abnormality, like mild cervical dysplasia, your OBGYN doctor will ask you to schedule more frequent pap smear tests to monitor the tissue. Mild dysplasia may go away on its own, and the tissue may return to normal without treatment.

If the biopsy confirms more advanced pre-cancer cells, your doctor may recommend a Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP), where an electricity-powered wire loop is used to remove abnormal cells.

Learn everything you need to know about a LEEP procedure here.

Moreland OB-GYN Colposcopy Services

At Moreland OB-GYN, we are committed to providing women in the Waukesha area with compassionate, collaborative, and exceptional OBGYN care. We are proud to offer gynecological and obstetric surgeries, including colposcopy procedures, in an environment where every patient feels safe and heard.

If you have further questions about a colposcopy procedure, call us at 262-544-441, and we will be happy to speak with you. Looking to schedule a colposcopy procedure? Request an appointment online today!

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