Colposcopy: What It Is, Why It’s Done, and What to Expect

Colposcopy: What It Is, Why It’s Done, and What to Expect

What is Colposcopy?

Colposcopy is a procedure used to closely examine the cervix, vagina, and vulva for signs of disease. During the procedure, a special microscope called a colposcope is used to magnify the tissues. Colposcopy is typically performed when a Pap smear result is abnormal, to detect abnormal cells in the cervix, vagina, or vulva.

Why is Colposcopy Done?

Colposcopy is usually performed in the following situations:

  • Abnormal Pap Smear Results: When abnormal cells are detected in a Pap smear test, colposcopy is done to examine these cells in more detail.
  • HPV Infection: Women with high-risk HPV infections may need colposcopy to identify precancerous lesions.
  • Abnormal Vaginal Bleeding: Colposcopy can be performed to investigate unexplained abnormal vaginal bleeding.
  • Genital Warts: Colposcopy can be used to examine genital warts on the vulva or vagina.
  • Abnormal Findings on Vulva or Vagina: It is used to examine areas of the vulva or vagina that appear abnormal.

How is Colposcopy Performed?

Colposcopy is usually performed by a gynecologist and takes about 10-20 minutes. Here is a step-by-step overview of the colposcopy procedure:

Preparation

Before colposcopy, your doctor may give you some recommendations:

  • Avoiding Menstrual Period: It’s best not to schedule the procedure during your menstrual period for a clearer view.
  • Abstaining from Sexual Intercourse: Avoid sexual intercourse for 24-48 hours before the procedure.
  • Limiting Use of Vaginal Products: Avoid using tampons, vaginal creams, or douches a few days before the procedure.

Procedure

  1. Patient Preparation: During the colposcopy, you will be positioned in a gynecological exam chair. This position allows the doctor to easily access your cervix.
  2. Use of Speculum: A speculum is inserted into the vagina to hold the vaginal walls open and provide a clear view of the cervix.
  3. Use of Colposcope: The colposcope is positioned just outside the vaginal opening, and the doctor uses light and magnification to closely examine the cervix. The colposcope does not touch your body.
  4. Application of Acetic Acid: Acetic acid (vinegar solution) may be applied to the cervix. This helps highlight abnormal cells by turning them white.
  5. Biopsy: The doctor may take small tissue samples (biopsies) from any areas that look abnormal. These samples are sent to a lab for analysis.

After Colposcopy

After the colposcopy, some women may experience mild cramping or vaginal discharge. If a biopsy was taken, light bleeding is also normal. Here are some post-procedure care tips:

  • Rest: Rest for a few hours after the procedure.
  • Avoiding Sexual Intercourse: Avoid sexual intercourse for 1-2 days or until your vagina heals.
  • Hygiene: Avoid vaginal douching and maintain good hygiene.

Colposcopy Results

Colposcopy results are based on the laboratory analysis of the biopsy samples. Results are typically available within a few weeks and can be categorized as follows:

  • Normal: No abnormal cells were found.
  • Abnormal: Precancerous or cancerous cells were detected.
  • Unclear: More testing or a repeat biopsy may be needed.

Interpreting Colposcopy Results

Based on the colposcopy results, your doctor will determine the appropriate treatment plan. If abnormal cells are found, the following treatment options may be considered:

  • Cryotherapy: Freezing and destroying abnormal cells.
  • LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure): Removing abnormal cells with an electrical loop.
  • Conization: Removing a cone-shaped piece of tissue containing abnormal cells.
  • Laser Therapy: Using a laser to destroy abnormal cells.

Colposcopy and Women’s Health

Colposcopy is a vital diagnostic tool for protecting women’s health and preventing serious gynecological diseases. Through colposcopy, early detection and treatment of cervical cancer and other genital cancers are possible. Women can protect their health through regular gynecological check-ups and, when necessary, colposcopy.

Benefits of Colposcopy

Colposcopy offers several advantages:

  • Early Detection: Colposcopy allows for the early detection of abnormal cells and precancerous lesions.
  • Accurate Diagnosis: Colposcopy enables doctors to examine the cervix and surrounding tissues in detail.
  • Treatment Planning: Detection of abnormal cells aids in planning the appropriate treatment.

Risks and Side Effects of Colposcopy

Colposcopy is generally a safe procedure, but some risks and side effects include:

  • Mild Cramping: You may experience mild cramping during or after the procedure.
  • Bleeding: Light bleeding is normal if a biopsy was taken.
  • Infection: Rarely, an infection may develop at the biopsy site. Contact your doctor if you notice signs of infection.

Frequently Asked Questions About Colposcopy

Does Colposcopy Hurt?

Colposcopy is usually painless. However, you might feel mild cramping or discomfort if a biopsy is taken.

How Long Does Colposcopy Take?

The colposcopy procedure usually takes 10-20 minutes. The duration may be slightly longer if a biopsy is performed.

When Will Colposcopy Results Be Available?

Colposcopy biopsy results are typically available within a few weeks. The time frame can vary depending on the lab’s workload.

Is There Any Preparation Required for Colposcopy?

No special preparation is required before colposcopy. However, it’s best to avoid scheduling the procedure during your menstrual period and to abstain from sexual intercourse beforehand.

Doctors of the Relevant Department:

Sur. Dr. Nil BİLGEN

Sur. Dr. Sadullah YESEVİ

Sur. Dr. Ayten BÖLÜKBAŞ

Sur. Dr. Adnan ŞİMŞEK

Sur. Dr. Rabia Yıldırım AKBAŞ