Colposcopy is a procedure that uses a special microscope (called a colposcope) to look into the vagina and to look very closely at the cervix (the opening to the uterus, or womb).
The colposcope magnifies, or enlarges the image of the outer portion of the cervix. It is somewhat like looking through a pair of binoculars. This allows the doctor to see the outer portion of the cervix better. Sometimes a small sample of tissue (called a biopsy) is taken for further study. The tissue samples help the doctor to figure out how to treat any problems found. If cancer of the cervix is found early, or a precancerous change of cells is found, it can be treated and almost always can be cured. Also, for precancers and early cancers of the cervix, sometimes removal of part of the cervix may be the only treatment needed.
These abnormalities may range from inflammation, infection, pre-cancerous or cancerous changes in the cells of the cervix. It is important to remember that cancer is rare and most of the changes noted at the time of a colposcopy will resolve spontaneously and require only follow-up checks.
Other reasons a woman may need a colposcopy is when, during a pelvic exam, the cervix, vagina, or vulva looks abnormal to the doctor
When you have a colposcopy, you will lie on an exam table just like you do when you have a regular pelvic exam. Dr Johnson uses an instrument called a speculum to spread the walls of the vagina apart. Dr Johnson then places the colposcope, which is like a microscope with a light on the end, at the opening of the vagina. The colposcope does not enter the vagina. Dr Johnson will look inside the vagina to locate any problem areas on the cervix (opening to the uterus) or in the vagina. If any areas are of concern, Dr Johnson may take a small tissue sample (called a biopsy). When this is done you may feel a slight pinch or cramp. The tissue is then sent to a lab for further study.
The procedure is short and takes approximately 10-15 minutes and is performed at the time of your consultation. There is no need for any anaesthesia
Most women feel fine after a colposcopy. You may feel a little lightheaded and if you had a biopsy, you may have some light bleeding. Subsequent spotting may persist for several days following a colposcopy but should not be heavy. Please use panty liners for hygiene and NOT tampons during this time.
There may be some cramping after a colposcopy, especially if a biopsy is taken. This occurs because the touching of the cervix causing may lead to uterine contractions similar to period pain, and may be treated in a similar manner by using medications such as naprogesic, neurofen or ibuprofen. You should not have sexual intercourse until any discharge stops, usually for the next 3-5 days.
Dr Johnson will talk with you about what he saw inside your vagina and cervix. If a sample of tissue was taken from your cervix (biopsy), the lab results should be ready in 2 to 3 weeks.
Uncommonly, heavy bleeding may occur from the site of biopsy. We will ensure bleeding from the site has settled before we let you go home, however if you experience heavy bleeding immediately following the examination you should contact Dr Johnson.
Occasionally when the cervix is touched there may be a sensation of nausea and faintness. This occurs because of stimulation to nerve fibers in the cervix, which causes the blood pressure to drop. If this happens, let Dr Johnson know the symptoms and the procedure will be stopped and you will simply remain lying down and observed until the sensation passes in a few minutes.
Other risks include infection of the cervix may occur, particularly after a cervical biopsy is taken. This is uncommon and antibiotics are not required as a routine. Infection may occur in the first 10 days following the procedure and if you have persistent or offensive vaginal discharge, heavy bleeding, high temperatures, or increasing pain you should contact Dr Johnson for advice on what to do.