A colposcopy is an in-office procedure performed to take a closer look at the cells of your cervix, vagina, and vulva for signs of cancer or precancers. A colposcopy is a more detailed exam than the one you receive during your routine checkup and requires a special instrument called a colposcope, similar to a microscope.
Your gynecologist may make the decision to perform a colposcopy based on your pap smear results. Pap smears are screening tests performed during your routine annual Well-Woman’s visit. Based on these results, if a pap smear shows abnormal cells or a presence of high-risk HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) your gynecologist will recommend a colposcopy.
A colposcopy is a quick procedure which typically lasts anywhere from 5-15 minutes. It occurs in two steps where your gynecologist looks at the cells of your affected area using special tools and then performs a biopsy.
After you change from the waist down, you will lie on the exam table with your legs in stirrups. A speculum will be placed in the vagina and then a solution called acetic acid, otherwise known as vinegar, will be placed on the cervix and this will help to highlight cells that may be irregular. Your gynecologist will then take a look through the colposcope to get a better visualization of the cells. A bright light, often a green color, will be used to better highlight the area.
If your gynecologist sees any suspicious areas, they will likely recommend taking a biopsy of the tissue. Sometimes, more than one biopsy may be needed. Usually, these biopsies will cause some discomfort or cramping, but this is not typically painful and goes away quickly after the procedure is completed. Your gynecologist may need to apply a medication after the biopsy is performed to stop any bleeding that may occur.
Ideally, colposcopies should not be scheduled or performed during the heaviest days of your period. Colposcopies should also not be performed after intercourse or recent use of tampons. It can be helpful to take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as Ibuprofen or Tylenol, prior to going to your colposcopy appointment.
Immediately following your procedure, you will likely have some mild cramping or discomfort. This may last up to 12 days afterward, and can be alleviated with Ibuprofen or Tylenol. You may experience some mild spotting or discharge for several days after the procedure.
If a biopsy was performed, your gynecologist will suggest that you hold off on sexual activity or strenuous physical activity for several days after the procedure. You should use sanitary pads for any discharge or spotting but should avoid using tampons.
Results from a colposcopy procedure typically take can take anywhere between 5-7 business to come back. Based on these results, your gynecologist will come up with a plan for follow-up, which usually includes another Pap test in-office. Your gynecologist will make sure you understand your treatment options after your colposcopy procedure.
A colposcopy is an effective way to determine your next steps after an abnormal Pap test. To meet with our gynecologists and learn more about cancer testing and prevention, contact our New York City office by calling or filling out our online form.