If you have had an abnormal Pap test result, your doctor is likely to suggest a colposcopy in order to make a diagnosis. This is a more detailed exam than your routine pelvic exam and Pap test, but is still relatively simple and completed quickly.
When is a Colposcopy Necessary?
A colposcopy is a diagnostic test that is usually performed if a routine Pap test resulted in an abnormal result or your doctor has concerns following a pelvic exam. Through a colposcopy, your gynecologist can diagnose issues including precancer of the cervix, vagina, or vulva, genital warts, or cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix).
How Can I Manage Anxiety Before My Colposcopy?
It’s normal to feel some anxiety or nervousness about a colposcopy, whether you are worried about your health or the procedure itself. In some cases, women who feel excessively anxious about the procedure can experience more pain during the colposcopy.
Often, learning more about the procedure can help you feel more at ease. If you still have questions about the procedure, you can write them down to ask your gynecologist before the procedure. A colposcopy is completed quickly and involves very minimal discomfort.
Some women also find it helpful to listen to music or a podcast during their procedure, whether this is a welcome distraction or calms their nerves. Ask your doctor if you can listen to music through headphones during your colposcopy.
Finally, prioritize stress-relieving activities in the days before your appointment. Some good options include meditation, exercise, yoga, or spending time with friends and family.
How is a Colposcopy Performed?
The procedure is actually two parts: Colposcopy and Biopsies. Colposcopy can be done with, or without, a biopsy. Colposcopy involves looking at the cervix with strong light and magnification. The second part is potentially biopsies. The decision to perform biopsies is made after reviewing the severity of the abnormal pap result and the findings of the procedure.
The colposcopy, looking at the cervix with a microscope, also has two parts. The first step is placing a speculum in the vagina, the same as during a Pap test. The second step is application of acetic acid solution (vinegar) to the cervix, which accentuates irregular cells. Your gynecologist will then take a closer look at the cervical cells through the colposcope, which magnifies the cervix. If during Colposcopy suspicious areas are noted, one or several biopsies may be needed. This can cause some cramping or discomfort, but is generally not painful.
Overall, a colposcopy takes no more than 5-15 minutes. If necessary, your gynecologist may apply a medication to the biopsied area to stop any bleeding. You are free to return home immediately after the procedure and can go about your routine as normal.
What Can I Expect After a Colposcopy?
After your colposcopy, it’s normal to experience some cramping or discomfort. Most patients choose to take Ibuprofen, Tylenol, or another over-the-counter pain medication to relieve this discomfort, which can last for up to 1-2 days but is easily managed. Some patients may also experience discharge or spotting during this time, and you should use sanitary pads rather than tampons. In addition, your gynecologist will recommend that you avoid sex or strenuous activity like exercise for a few days after your colposcopy.
You will receive results from your colposcopy biopsy about a week after the procedure. If necessary, your gynecologist may suggest follow-up tests depending on the results.
Schedule an Appointment
To schedule an appointment for a colposcopy, call Maternal Fetal Medicine Associates in New York City at (212) 235-1335 or request an appointment through our online form.