A colposcopy is a diagnostic procedure that examines the cervix, vagina, and vulva to check for the presence of cancerous cells, abnormal cells, genital warts, and non-cancerous growths called polyps.
An instrument called the colposcope that functions in a similar way to a microscope is used in the procedure to magnify the cervix for examination by the doctor. If there are any abnormal or suspicious cells present, the doctor collects a small sample of tissue for laboratory testing, known as a biopsy.
When do you need to do a colposcopy?
Doctor would normally suggest a colposcopy as a follow up to abnormal Pap smear results. The colposcopy is usually carried out within three months from receiving the abnormal Pap smear results. The colposcopy will be able to confirm the presence of abnormal cells in the cervix and if necessary, a biopsy will be performed.
A colposcopy will also be recommended if the patient has other signs of cervical, vaginal, or vulvar cancer (source).
The procedure is similar to a Pap smear and takes about 15 to 20 minutes.
- The patient will be asked to lie down on their back on a table with their feet on supports
- The doctor will then place a metal speculum in the vagina to hold the vaginal walls open
- A colposcope, positioned about 30cm outside the vagina, will be used to examine the cervix
- Special liquids are applied to the cervix to highlight any abnormal cell areas. The patient may feel a mild tingling or burning sensation upon application
- A small sample of tissue may be removed (a procedure called a biopsy) for laboratory testing
There may be some light bleeding or brown vaginal discharge after the procedure. It is recommended for the patient to wait until any bleeding stops before having sex or using tampons, vaginal medications, lubricants, and creams.
- Avoid having sex or inserting anything into the vagina such as tampons, lubricants, or vaginal medications 24 to 48 hours before the procedure
- Do not schedule a colposcopy during the week of your period
- Inform the doctor if you are pregnant or might be pregnant before the appointment