What is a Colposcopy?
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 with a light attached, which is inserted into the vaginal canal. This allows your gynecologist to get a better idea of what your cervix looks like. Sometimes, a small amount of vinegar is sprayed on the cervix to make any abnormal areas stand out. If your gynecologist sees any abnormal areas, they may perform a biopsy where a small tissue sample is taken to be sent to a lab.
Your gynecologist may make the decision to perform a colposcopy based on your Pap smear results. Pap smears are screening tests performed during your annual Well-Woman’s visit. Based on these results, if a Pap smear shows abnormal cells or a presence of high-risk HPV (Human Papillomavirus) your gynecologist will recommend a colposcopy.
What can I expect before and after?
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. Your gynecologist may suggest you 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 your gynecologist may suggest to alleviate it with ibuprofen or Tylenol at home. You may experience some mild spotting or discharge for several days after the procedure.
If a biopsy was performed, your gynecologist may 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.
Why is a Colposcopy Important?
A colposcopy is a way for your gynecologist to verify the results found during your Pap test. Whether your results from a biopsy are positive or negative, this can allow your gynecologist to create a plan and ensure you know your next steps. For example, your gynecologist may recommend you undergo Pap tests more often than the usual schedule and take certain steps to prevent abnormal growth. Overall, it’s an important step in determining whether your Pap test results are concerning or not through further, more specific testing.
How Can My Gynecologist Help?
An abnormal result from your Pap test can cause anxiety and you’ll likely have a lot of questions. Your gynecologist can ensure you understand your options and your course of action with a colposcopy and beyond. It’s important to ask questions and voice your concerns so that your gynecologist can walk you through the process and make sure you get the care you need. Additionally, your gynecologist can assess your results and weed out any false or positive results that may be incorrect. When your gynecologist has a relationship with you and your health history, they can plan the best steps for you to take.
Schedule an Appointment
When it comes to cancer prevention and testing, it’s important to partner with a compassionate, experienced gynecologist who can help you through the process. To meet with our expert team and discuss your options, contact our New York City office by calling or filling out our online form.