Women’s Colposcopy

Women’s Colposcopy

What is Colposcopy?

Colposcopy is a medical diagnostic procedure that allows healthcare providers to examine the cervix, vagina, and vulva in detail using a colposcope. The colposcope is a special magnifying device that illuminates and enlarges the view of these areas, enabling the detection of abnormalities that are not visible to the naked eye.

Why is Colposcopy Done?

Colposcopy is primarily performed when cervical cancer screening tests, such as Pap smears, indicate abnormal changes in the cervical cells. It helps provide more detailed information about these abnormal cells. Additionally, colposcopy can be used to assess other conditions, including:

  • Genital warts on the cervix
  • Cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix)
  • Benign growths, such as polyps
  • Unexplained pain
  • Unusual bleeding

How is the Procedure Performed?

Colposcopy is usually conducted in a doctor’s office, but it may also be done in a specialized clinic. The procedure is scheduled when the patient is not menstruating to ensure a clearer view of the cervix. To prepare for the procedure, the patient should avoid the following for at least 24 hours beforehand:

  • Douching
  • Using tampons
  • Using vaginal medications
  • Having sexual intercourse

During the procedure:

  1. The patient lies on their back with their feet in footrests, similar to a pelvic exam.
  2. A speculum is inserted to hold the vaginal walls apart, allowing visibility of the cervix.
  3. The colposcope is positioned just outside the vaginal opening.
  4. A mild solution is applied to the cervix and vagina using a cotton swab. This solution helps highlight abnormal areas on the cervix, which may cause a slight burning sensation.

When is a Biopsy Done During Colposcopy?

If the healthcare provider identifies abnormal areas during the colposcopy, a biopsy may be performed. A biopsy involves removing a small piece of tissue from the cervix for further examination. Cells may also be collected from the cervical canal using a procedure called endocervical curettage (ECC).

What Should You Expect During Recovery?

After a colposcopy without a biopsy:

  • You should feel fine immediately after the procedure.
  • Normal activities can be resumed right away.
  • Some light spotting may occur.

After a colposcopy with a biopsy:

  • You may experience pain and discomfort for 1 or 2 days.
  • Over-the-counter pain medications can alleviate discomfort.
  • Vaginal bleeding and a dark discharge might occur for a few days due to medication used to stop bleeding at the biopsy site.
  • Activity may need to be limited temporarily to allow the cervix to heal.
  • Avoid inserting anything into the vagina for a short time, including tampons, vaginal medications, and sexual intercourse.

When to Contact Your Healthcare Provider

Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms after a colposcopy with a biopsy:

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding (using more than one sanitary pad per hour)
  • Severe lower abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Chills

By following these guidelines and understanding the procedure, patients can better prepare for and recover from a colposcopy, ensuring they address any potential issues promptly with their healthcare provider.

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