A colposcopy is a way of looking at the cervix through a special magnifying device called a colposcope. It shines a light onto the vagina and cervix and can enlarge the normal view by 2–60 times. This exam allows the doctor to find problems that cannot be seen by the eye alone. Sometimes a colposcopy needs to be done more than once in order to check the result of a treatment or to further assess other problems such as:
- Genital warts on the cervix
- Cervicitis (an inflamed cervix)
- Benign (not cancer) growths, such as polyps
The procedure is usually done like a Pap test in a doctor’s office and is usually done when you are not having a period since it allows the doctor a better view of the cervix. At least 24 hours before the test, you should not douche, use tampons, use vaginal medications or have sex.
Similar to a pelvic exam, you will lie on your back with your feet raised and placed on foot rests for support. A speculum will be used to hold apart the vaginal walls so that the inside of the vagina and the cervix can be seen. The colposcope is placed just outside the opening of your vagina and a mild solution is applied to the cervix and vagina with a cotton swab or cotton ball. This liquid makes abnormal areas on the cervix easier to see. You may feel a slight burning. During a biopsy, a small piece of abnormal tissue is removed from the cervix. The sample is removed with a special device. Cells also may be taken from the canal of the cervix. A special device is used to collect the cells. This is called endocervical curettage (ECC).
Your gynecologist or doctor will discuss the results of your biopsy when they come back from the lab. Depending on the results, you may need to be checked more often, or you may need further testing or treatments. If you did not have a biopsy during the colposcope you should feel fine right away other than some spotting. If you did have a biopsy during the colposcopy your vagina may be sore or you may have vaginal bleeding or a dark discharge for a few days. This may occur from medication used to help stop bleeding at the biopsy site. You can wear a sanitary pad until the discharge stops, however you should not use a tampon. The doctor may also suggest avoiding sex while the cervix heals. If you experience heavy vaginal bleeding, severe lower abdominal pain, fever or chills be sure to call your gynecologist right away.
Call the Woman's Clinic at 601-354-0869 to talk with your gynecologist about any questions you may have regarding the procedure and any other options you may have. Nurses are available by phone 24-7.