If you’ve had an abnormal Pap test result, your gynecologist may recommend a colposcopy. A colposcopy allows your gynecologist to look more closely and carefully at the cervix and surrounding areas to check for abnormalities. During the procedure, your physician will use a special instrument called a colposcope, which is similar to a magnifying glass.
Like any medical procedure, a colposcopy can sometimes cause feelings of nervousness. But knowing what to expect and getting your questions answered in advance can help you feel more comfortable. Your health care team will do everything possible to make you feel at ease during and after the procedure.
Why it’s done
If your Pap test results have shown abnormalities, or if your gynecologist has spotted something abnormal during an exam, he or she may wish to do a colposcopy. A colposcopy is an effective, safe procedure that can potentially catch cervical cancer early, when it is most treatable. Your physician will be checking for abnormal growths, irritation or inflammation, and other problems such as genital warts on the cervix. If may also be done if you have had an HPV infection or if you have abnormal vaginal bleeding.
What it’s like
The procedure is not invasive, and most women report only mild discomfort. The colposcope does not touch you. It is used only for viewing the areas that need to be examined. Your gynecologist will have you lie on an exam table with stirrups and will insert a speculum, similar to your regular pelvic exam. Then, a special cleansing solution is applied to the vagina and cervix. This solution helps highlight any potentially abnormal areas. The solution can sometimes cause a mild burning sensation.
If your gynecologist sees an abnormality, he or she will likely do a biopsy. This involves taking a small sample of tissue to be tested in a lab. If this happens, your gynecologist will tell you what he or she is doing and you may feel a pinch or sting when it is being done. In some cases, a local anesthetic is used to minimize discomfort. Not all colposcopies require a biopsy.
Preparing for colposcopy
Your gynecologist will give you instructions on how to prepare for the procedure, which will usually include no douching, tampons, or intercourse the day before the test. If you are feeling anxious, you may wish to try some relaxation techniques that you can use during the procedure. Many women find using calm, deep breathing can alleviate pain and can significantly improve their level of comfort. Remember, the procedure is being done with your best interest in mind, and could save your life.
The CarePoint Health Gynecology Department provides skilled, state-of-the-art care for women at all ages and stages of life. For more information about the comprehensive women’s services we provide, please contact us.
Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.