What is a Colposcopy?
A colposcopy is done when a provider needs to closely examine the cervix, vagina and vulva of a patient. This procedure uses a tool called a colposcope that is a microscope that gives the doctor a clear view of the patient’s cervix. It looks like a binoculars on a stand.
When a woman has a pap smear test done that returns abnormal results the provider will want to follow-up with a colposcopy. A pap test is done to check the cervix for any abnormal cells. The colposcopy is done as a follow-up to obtain more information about the potentially abnormal cells. A colposcopy may also be done to get more information about problems like, genital warts on the cervix, an inflamed cervix, polyps, other lesions or bleeding.
Similar to a pap test a colposcopy needs to be done when the patient is not having their menstrual cycle. If there is a chance you are pregnant your provider will want to do a test to find out for sure. A colposcopy can be done on a pregnant woman if necessary however it is information that they will want to know in advance.
The procedure is an outpatient procedure that can be done in the Northwestern Women’s Health Associates office.
Preparing for a Colposcopy:
When preparing to have a colposcopy your provider will ask you to avoid the following things for 24 hours before your appointment:
- Vaginal medications
- It would be wise to take Motrin or Advil beforehand.
How is a Colposcopy Done?
When a patient comes in for a colposcopy the procedure is similar in some ways to a standard pap test. A colposcopy will utilize a speculum which is a tool also used in a pap test. Once the speculum is in place a solution will be applied to the cervix and vagina that aids in visibility and turns abnormal cells white. The colposcope is placed just outside the opening of the vagina. Biopsies are then taken of the abnormal cells, silver nitrate or monsel's solution is then used to stop the bleding.
This is a brief procedure that is done right in your doctor’s office.
Recovering From a Colposcopy:
According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, most patients who have a colposcopy can return to normal activity immediately following the procedure. As with a pap test there is a chance for light bleeding over the next few days for up to a week.
If you have had a biopsy done during your colposcopy you will need to avoid sex, tampons and douching for a week after the procedure is complete. Your doctor will advise you on all of these details at the time of the colposcopy.
With any procedure there are warning signs that you want to be aware of. After a colposcopy you should alert your doctor if you have any foul smelling discharge, heavy bleeding, fever or increasing abdominal pain.
If you have had an abnormal pap test or have been told you need a colposcopy contact the team at Northwestern Women’s Health Associates to set up an appointment to discuss your health options and determine the best treatment for you.