What is Colposcopy?
A colposcopy is a diagnostic test that takes a closer look at the cervix, the vagina, and the vulva. It is an in-office procedure that usually takes less than thirty minutes. A magnifying instrument with a light, called a colposcope, is used to check the cervix for any abnormal cell changes, growths, or lesions.
Who needs a Colposcopy?
If your pelvic exam or Pap smear has shown any abnormal results, your doctor may recommend a colposcopy. This test, will look into the vagina and the cervix for any cell changes or abnormal growth. A colposcopy is also conducted to look for any signs of cervical cancer.
A colposcopy is not a Gynecology surgery. It may be suggested as the next step if a pelvic exam shows any of the following results:
- Genital warts
- Irregular bleeding
- Polyps (small, abnormal tissue growth)
- Inflammation of the cervix (cervicitis)
If colposcopy shows any abnormal growth, they may retrieve a sample for biopsy. A colposcopy is limited to the cervix and does not extend to the uterus. It may only reveal any issues that can be detected within the vagina and the cervix.
The colposcopy is preferably conducted when you are not menstruating, thus giving a better look at your cervical tissue. You will be required to lie with your feet raised on the footrests, as one would during a pelvic exam. A speculum will be used to hold your vaginal walls open.
Using a cotton swab, a mild solution will be applied to your cervical and vaginal area. It will help identify abnormalities in the area. The solution may cause a slight irritation, but if you experience excessive discomfort, bring it to the attention of your doctor.
The colposcope is placed at the opening of the vagina. It will not be inserted into the vaginal opening. If any abnormalities are detected, your doctor may take a swab or a sample. This may be slightly uncomfortable.
How to Prepare for a Colposcopy
Colposcopy is considered to be a safe procedure. Here are a few tips you should remember when you are preparing for a colposcopy.
- It is best to not use anything in your vagina prior to the procedure. Avoid using any tampons, vaginal cleansing products, creams, etc. 24 to 48 hours before your test.
- Avoid engaging in any sexual activities before your test.
- If you are taking any blood-thinning drugs, consult your doctor about whether you may be required to stop them before the test.
Depending on where you are undergoing the test, you may be required to change into a patient gown for the procedure. If not, it is advisable to wear comfortable clothes. There are no diet restrictions to follow before the test.
If you experience any fear or anxiety about the test, remember that the test is generally not invasive or painful. It is relatively quick, and you can resume your routine within a few minutes. Practice grounding or relaxation techniques before the procedure, if necessary.
After the Test
You may need to relax for a few minutes after the test. If any samples were collected during the procedure, you may experience some pain or spotting over the next couple of days. In case of heavy, irregular bleeding or vaginal discharge, fever, pelvic pain, consult your doctor immediately.
You should expect test results within the next week.
Colposcopy is a simple test that you can get through in a matter of an hour. Ensure that you get some rest after, if necessary.