Healthy Living

What is Colposcopy?

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Key Takeaways

  • Colposcopy is a more detailed assessment of the cervix.
  • Colposcopy is performed longer than cervical screening tests.
  • Colposcopy is a safe procedure, even for pregnant women.

Colposcopy is a procedure which examines the neck of the womb, commonly known as cervix, in a more detailed perspective. It is usually performed after a not so good result from the cervical screening test. Through colposcopy, the abnormal cells are observed as well as the extent on how abnormal these cells could be.

In some cases, treatment may also be given at the same time of the examination.

 

Is Colposcopy and Cervical Screening Tests the Same?

Cervical screening tests are performed regularly to detect changes and prevent the condition (cervical cancer) from getting worse. These tests only show the presence of abnormal cells but not detailed information of the cell. Cervical screening tests are done more quickly and require less training compared to colposcopy.

Colposcopy, on the other hand, allows a closer look and more detailed observation of the abnormal cells. With colposcopy, the exact form of cell abnormality is identified.

 

When is Colposcopy Indicated?

The primary reason for the need of colposcopy is due to abnormal results of the cervical screening tests.

Colposcopy is indicated if the patient has one of the higher grades of abnormality in the cervical screening test. In addition, colposcopy is needed if the result of the cervical screening test of the patient has three inadequate or borderline results consecutively or three abnormal results within 10 years.

 

What to Expect during Colposcopy?

During the procedure, a speculum will be put inside the vagina gently. This allows the cervix to be seen by the physician. Using a colposcope, the cervix is seen in a more detailed view as the colposcope magnifies the area. The abnormal cells are then identified through the use of a liquid which paints the cervix. A sample tissue will then be taken from the cervix and will be sent to laboratory to assess the cells further. Colposcopy takes about 15 minutes to finish.

Patients who had colposcopy can go home and return to work afterwards. Expect to have some bleeding if a sample tissue has been taken during the procedure. Bleeding could last from three to five days. Sanitary pads may be used to manage bleeding, not tampons. Wait for five days or until the bleeding stops before you could have sex or use pessaries or vaginal creams.

The colposcopy result and biopsy will determine if treatment is needed. The objective of treatment is to wipe out or get rid of the abnormal cells in the cervix without harming other healthy cells. The treatment will depend on the extent of the abnormality of the cells. Treatments include cryotherapy, loop diathermy, laser treatment and cold coagulation. These treatments are done as outpatient and are performed under local anesthesia. The treatments are simple and quick.

After treatment, mild discomfort may be experienced. This can be managed through pain killers. Bloody vaginal discharge which could last for six weeks may also be experienced. Treatment is usually successful and effective in most women.

 

I’m Pregnant, Can I have Colposcopy?

Colposcopy is generally safe for pregnant women. It won’t affect childbirth and won’t affect future fertility. However, it is still best to consult with your physician before having colposcopy.