Defining a colposcopy
Because it is done with a medical device called a colposcope hence the name colposcopy. This procedure is performed on the vagina, vulva and cervix to check for abnormalities.
Typically, a doctor orders a colposcopy when the test is done to check for unusual cells in the cervix – Pap smear produces abnormal results. A colposcopy is carried out with a colposcope – a big microscope electrically powered and designed with very bright light that magnifies and makes the cervix clearer for the doctor to see.
If any unusual areas are identified during this procedure, the gynaecologist takes a biopsy (sample of tissues). A medical process that involves taking tissue samples from the inner part of the cervix is known as endocervical curettage (ECC). A lab specialist called a pathologist would examine the samples when it gets to the laboratory.
Patients may develop anxiety if the doctor should suggest a colposcopy; however, t is a fast test that comes with very little discomfort. So, knowing what it’s all about and your lookout can put your mind at ease.
But why do I need a colposcopy?
The following reasons may suffice the need for a doctor-recommended colposcopy:
- Abnormal results from your Pap smear
- Vaginal bleeding after sex
- The obvious presence of an unusual growth on your vulva, vagina or cervix
After the colposcopy is done, the doctor may use the test to diagnose conditions like:
- Cervicitis (an inflamed cervix)
- Unusual cells in the cervix, precancer or cancer of the vulva, vagina or cervix
- Genital warts
Getting ready for a colposcopy? What you should do
You really don’t have much to do in preparation for this procedure, but the following should be borne in mind:
- Get your gynaecologist to give a comprehensive detail of the procedure.
- Inform your doctor should you suspect you’re carrying a baby.
- Plan the test when you don’t have heavy menstruation. Usually, a good time is at the beginning or end of your menstruation when bleeding is light. Confirm from your doctor, though.
- Douching should not be done, tampons shouldn’t be worn, and there should be no sex 2 to 3 days before the test.
- You may need mild store-bought pain killers before the exam should a biopsy be conducted. Talk this over with your doctor ahead of the exam.
- To be comfortable, have your bladder and bowels emptied before the procedure.
How is colposcopy done?
The doctor’s office is the usual place for a colposcopy, and within 10 to 20 minutes, you are done with it. Do you need anaesthetic? No. Okay, so expect the following:
- Your legs will need to part and hold steady in stirrups while lying flat on your back on the examination table. Similar to the body position during a Pap test or pelvic exam.
- The colposcope is placed a little further from your vulva. At the same time, a speculum is inserted into your vagina to hold the walls in an open position and allow the doctor a good view of your cervix.
- Since the vagina and cervix are mucosal surfaces, the doctor will swab them with a cotton ball dipped in a vinegar solution to eliminate the mucous and make unusual cells visible.
- There is no contact between your body and the colposcope. The gynaecologist may take some photos and perform a biopsy on any abnormal-looking area.
- A solution will apply to control bleeding post-biopsy. It refers to as Monsel’s solution. This is why there is a dark coloured discharge over a few days after the test.
Not every woman may be okay with having a speculum up their vagina. Some may even experience an itch due to the solution of vinegar. If you worry during the test, just take slow, deep breaths, and you will feel relaxed.
Having a biopsy during colposcopy
Your experience during a biopsy will vary following the area in which the test is being done.
Overall, a colposcopy should not cause discomfort. However, some women who undergo a cervix biopsy do experience pain, bleeding, cramps, or discomfort.
Sometimes, you need to take pain medication half an hour beforestarting the test. Again, your cervix will numb by the doctor before the procedure. Discuss what will be best for you with your doctor.
The sensation in most of the vagina is minimal, so you may not experience discomfort when you get the biopsy on this area. The lower vaginal area is more sensitive. Based on this, the doctor may apply local anaesthetic on that part to carry out the biopsy.
Any risks with colposcopy?
Yes, but they are minimal. Even with a biopsy, the risks are low-level. However, there may be uncommon complications such as:
- Very heavy bleeding or one that exceeds 14 days
- Chills or a fever
- Pain in the pelvis
- An infection like thick, yellowish, or unpleasant smelling vaginal discharge
Don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider if you have these symptoms.
As for getting pregnant, a biopsy or colposcopy doesn’t pose any challenges to having a baby.
Interpretation of the outcome of a colposcopy
As expected, test results do come after the test. So for this exam, find out from your doctor when your result will be out. You can call the clinic or doctor when you don’t receive the test result on time. From the outcome, you will know if further testing or treatment will be necessary.
Note that a result that comes back with no abnormality highlighted will subject you to an extra test so the doctor can find what caused your abnormal Pap smear result in the first place. Alternatively, the doctor may recommend you get a follow-up check.
Abnormal biopsy outcome
As we mentioned earlier, the tissue samples sent to the laboratory for analysis by a pathologist for visible abnormalities.
From the result of a biopsy, diagnosis of the following conditions are possible:
- Cervical cells that are not normal
- And other conditions are treatable
Any recommendation the doctor gives will follow the outcome of the biopsy and colposcopy. Plan a visit to your doctor and ask as many questions as possible. You are always free to contact another clinic for confirmation.
Post colposcopy, what next?
You may experience a dark discharge from your vagina for 3 days and a week of bleeding post colposcopy. Again, you may feel tenderness in your vagina and mild cramping for a day or two.
Didn’t get a biopsy yet? You may resume your daily life routine immediately.
Had a biopsy done? Having sex, tampons, vaginal creams and douching must suspend for 1 week. Taking a shower or bath is okay right after the exam.
Have any worries? Feel free to approach your doctor and tell them how you feel.
Whether your result came out abnormal or not, don’t stop having regular Pap tests and exams at your gynaecologist’s following your doctor’s recommendation. Keep top of mind that private colposcopy should perform in Gynaecology Clinic.