Why is a colposcopy performed?
A colposcopy is performed for a variety of reasons, including:
- An abnormal pap smear
- Genital warts on the cervix
- Benign (non-cancerous) growths such as polyps
- Pain and/or abnormal bleeding
How is a colposcopy performed?
A colposcopy is performed in the office and does not require sedation. After placing a speculum in the patient’s vagina, the provider will use a colposcope to view the cervix and vagina. The colposcope magnifies (2-60 times) and shines a light on the cervix and the vagina. This allows the provider to apply a mild solution to your cervix and vagina that makes abnormal cells easier to see. This solution may cause a slight burning sensation. If the provider sees abnormal cells then he/she may take a biopsy. This entails removing a small section of the abnormal cells for analysis. The provider may also decide to perform an endocervical curettage (ECC) which is when the provider scrapes a small amount of cells from the cervical canal (the opening of the cervix that releases blood from your uterus during your menstrual period) for analysis. This can be important because it is extremely difficult to view these endocervical cells otherwise.
After a colposcopy
After a colposcopy you may bleed slightly (particularly if a biopsy was performed) and your vagina may feel sore for one to two days. Your provider will also suggest that you limit your activities for a brief time. You may return to work almost immediately, however, it would be wise to not put anything into your vagina for one week in order to allow your cervix to heal. Therefore:
- Do not have sex
- Do not use tampons; and
- Do not douche
Call your provider immediately if you have any of the following complications:
- Heavy vaginal bleeding (using more than 1 pad per hour)
- Severe lower abdominal/pelvic pain
- Chills and/or
- Foul smelling vaginal discharge
If the colposcopy does not reveal any abnormal cells, then no further testing may be needed. However, other testing and/or treatment may be necessary if abnormal cells are revealed by the colposcopy.