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What is a Colposcopy?

By May 23, 2011 - 5:53am
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This is a very good article with respect to giving the patient a realistic and accurate description of what to expect during a colposcopy. With so many women requiring colposcopy because of HPV ( human papillomavirus) which is responsible for not only cervical cancer but vaginal, vulvar and anal cancers (as well as penile cancers in men and oral cancers) it is an important exam to understand.

I would add that the colposcope can be utilized to visualize any area not just the cervix and vagina. This is especially important with regard to positive HPV results bcause this virus can affect the vulva and anus as well and your doctor truly should examine these areas as well. Research shows a higher incidence of anal dysplasia and/or cancer when someone has already had cervical involvement so it is important to discuss this with your doctor before the procedure begins.

May 23, 2011 - 2:09pm

Colposcopy is a procedure to closely examine your cervix and vagina for signs of disease. During colposcopy, your doctor uses a special instrument called a colposcope.

Your doctor may recommend colposcopy if your Pap test has returned abnormal results. If your doctor finds an unusual area of cells during colposcopy, a sample of tissue can be collected for laboratory testing (biopsy).

Reasons for a Colposcopy:
Your doctor may recommend colposcopy if a Pap test or pelvic exam revealed abnormalities. Colposcopy can be used to diagnose:
• Cervical cancer
• Genital warts
• Inflammation of the cervix (cervicitis)
• Precancerous changes in the cells of the cervix
• Precancerous changes in the cells of the vagina
• Vaginal cancer

Possible Complications:
Call your doctor if the following symptoms are present after your colposcopy:
• Bleeding that is heavier than what you typically experience during your period
• Chills
• Fever
• Severe abdominal pain
• Smelly vaginal discharge

What to expect:
During the colposcopy
Colposcopy is usually done in a doctor's office and the procedure typically takes 10 to 20 minutes. You'll lie on your back on a table with your feet in supports, just as during a pelvic exam or Pap test.
The doctor places a metal speculum in your vagina. The speculum holds open the walls of your vagina so your doctor can see your cervix.
Your doctor positions the special magnifying instrument, called a colposcope, a few inches away from your vagina. A bright light is shown into your vagina and your doctor looks through the lens, as if using binoculars.

Your cervix and vagina are swabbed with cotton to clear away any mucus. Your doctor may apply a solution of vinegar or another type of solution to the area. This may cause a burning or tingling sensation. The solution helps highlight any areas of suspicious cells.

During the biopsy
If your doctor finds a suspicious area, a small sample of tissue may be collected for laboratory testing. To collect the tissue, your doctor uses a sharp biopsy instrument to remove a small piece of tissue. If there are multiple suspicious areas, your doctor may take multiple biopsy samples.

What you feel during a biopsy depends on what type of tissue is being removed:
• Cervical biopsy. A cervical biopsy won't hurt, but you may feel some pressure or cramping.
• Vaginal biopsy. Most of the vagina has little sensation and you won't feel pain during the biopsy. But a biopsy of the lower portion of the vagina can cause pain, so your doctor may administer a local anesthetic to numb the area.
Your doctor may apply a chemical to the biopsy area to limit bleeding.

After the colposcopy
If your doctor didn't take a biopsy sample during your colposcopy, you won't have any restrictions on your activity once your exam is complete. You may experience some spotting or very light bleeding from your vagina in the next day or two.
If you had a biopsy sample taken during your colposcopy, you may experience:
• Vaginal pain that lasts one or two days
• Light bleeding from your vagina that lasts a few days
• A dark discharge from your vagina
Use a pad to catch any blood or discharge. Avoid tampons, douching and having vaginal intercourse for a week after your biopsy.

Before you leave your colposcopy appointment, ask your doctor when you can expect the results. Also ask for a phone number you may call in the event you don't hear back from your doctor within a specified time.

The results of your colposcopy will determine whether you'll need any further testing and treatment.


May 23, 2011 - 5:55am
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