Why do I need a Colposcopy?
If your smear test shows abnormal cells are present in the cervix or if a number of smear tests have failed to show sufficient cells to make a diagnosis, then this procedure is recommended to find out how serious the problem is and to decide on the best treatment.
What happens during the examination?
It is important to remember that this procedure is not painful, but merely uncomfortable. The colposcopy nurse will escort you to the treatment room and help you to position yourself on a special type of couch. The nurse remains present during the procedure. The couch has padded supports on which you place your feet. When you are lying comfortably the doctor will gently insert a speculum into your vagina, just as when you had your smear taken. Sometimes another smear is taken. After this the doctor will look at your cervix using a colposcope. The colposcope is a specially adapted type of microscope. It might look a bit alarming, but it is just a large magnifying glass with a light source attached. It looks like a large pair of binoculars on a stand. It does not touch you or go inside you.
The doctor will then apply different liquid onto your cervix to help identify and highlight any areas of abnormal cells. If an area is identified, a small sample of tissue – a biopsy – will be taken from the surface of the cervix. A biopsy is about the size of a pinhead. You may feel a slight stinging, but it should not be painful. Your doctor will inform you if he/she feels it is necessary to take a biopsy.
What happens after the examination?
After you have dressed, you return to the consulting room, where your doctor may be able to tell you the outcome of the colposcopy and what treatment, if any, is needed. But often, especially if you have had a biopsy, you will not be given a definite diagnosis immediately after the examination. It will take a week or two before you get the results of the biopsy. After the examination you should feel well enough to continue with your usual routine.
What are the risks?
Colposcopy and biopsy is an extremely safe procedure. The procedure may produce a crampy feeling but this should not last long. There is a very tiny risk of bleeding however this is extremely unusual. Should you notice any unpleasant discharge then you should contact your doctor as there may be an infection, but this is very rare.
General Post-Biopsy Advice
If the doctor is satisfied with the results obtained from applying the liquid onto the cervix, a biopsy is often not required. However in many cases, the doctor requires to take a biopsy for further investigation. If this is the case, it is recommended that you do not have sexual intercourse for three to four weeks. Do not swim for at least one week. Avoid using tampons for at least one week; try to use sanitary towels instead. If tampons are used then they should be changed every 4 hours. A small amount of spotting may be observed for a week or two.
Should you have any other queries or questions, do not hesitate to contact the clinic nurse or your doctor. 132