A colposcopy is an examination of cervix, vagina and vulva in order to identify issues and signs of disease.
What is a colposcopy?
A colposcopy is an examination of cervix, vagina and vulva in order to identify issues and signs of disease. During the procedure, doctors use a special instrument called a colposcope (a magnifying device). If you’ve received abnormal results from a Pap test, your doctor may recommend a colposcopy. If your doctor finds an unusual area of cells during your exam, a sample of tissue may be collected for lab testing (a biopsy).
Why is it done?
Colposcopies are recommend if a pelvic exam or Pap smear reveals abnormal results. This exam can also be done to diagnose precancerous changes in the tissues of the cervix and the vagina, as well as the vulva. Cervicitis (an inflammation of the cervix) and genital warts can also be diagnosed.
What can I expect during the procedure?
The procedure usually lasts 10-20 minutes and can be done in a doctor’s office. During your appointment, you will be asked to lie on your back with your feet in supports, similar to Pap test or pelvic exam. Your doctor will use a speculum to hold the vaginal walls open so that the cervix is visible. The colposcope is then positioned a few inches away from the vulva. A bright light and the lens of the colposcope will allow your doctor to see as mucus is cleared away from the cervix and vagina with a cotton swab. Next, a solution of vinegar, or something similar, is applied to the area to highlight suspicious areas of cells.
If suspicious cell areas are found, your doctor will use a sharp instrument to collect a sample of tissue. Biopsy samples can be taken from the cervix or the vagina. A cervical biopsy may cause mild discomfort but typically it is not painful. A vaginal biopsy of the lower portion of the vagina or the vulva can cause pain, and your doctor will use a local anesthetic to numb the area first.
If a biopsy sample is not taken, you will be able to go back to your normal activities immediately, though you might also experience some light vaginal bleeding for a few days. If a biopsy sample is taken, you may experience vulvar or vaginal pain for a couple of days, a dark discharge from your vagina and light bleeding. Your doctor will give you a timeframe on when the biopsy results will be available. The results of your colposcopy will determine the treatment or if further testing is needed.
Do you have questions or concerns?
If you live in Encinitas or San Diego County in California, North Coast Family Medical Group can address your medical questions and concerns. To learn more about colposcopy, including the risks, give us a call at (760) 942-0118 or schedule online using our Patient Portal.