A colposcopy is a diagnostic procedure used to closely examine a woman's cervix, vagina, and vulva for signs of disease. It is commonly performed when abnormalities are detected on a Pap smear to determine the presence of precancerous or cancerous cells. At Sitaram Bhartia Hospital, colposcopy is an important tool utilized by gynecologists to investigate unexplained bleeding, abnormal discharge, or abnormal pap smear results in patients.
The Purpose of a Colposcopy
The primary purpose of a colposcopy is to diagonse cervical and vaginal conditions that can't be identified by the naked eye. This includes early precancerous changes as well as early stage cancers. Some common reasons a doctor may recommend a colposcopy include:
Abnormal Pap test results showing possible precancerous cell changes or early stage cervical cancer cells
Persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
Unexplained vaginal bleeding or abnormal vaginal discharge
Visible lesions, growths, or sores on the cervix or vagina
The magnified view allows the gynecologist to examine the tissues for abnormalities and identify whether further testing or treatment is necessary. When combined with collecting tissue samples (biopsies), colposcopy aids Sitaram Bhartia specialists in making accurate diagnoses to prevent progression or treat gynecological conditions promptly.
Preparing for a Colposcopy Procedure
Leading up to a colposcopy, patients are advised not to use vaginal medications, contraceptive foams/jellies/creams, or douche for 48 hours prior. This allows for clear visibility of the cervix and vagina. The procedure does not require any anesthetic, so patients can eat and take medications normally.
At Sitaram Bhartia Hospital, doctors recommend wearing comfortable clothing with easy bottom access to the procedure. Patients can also take an oral pain reliever prior to relieve potential cramping. Having sanitary products on hand is also suggested for any minor bleeding after.
What to Expect During the Examination ?
During the exam, the patient lies on their back with feet resting in stirrups, similar to having a Pap smear. Using a speculum, the doctor opens the vagina to clearly see the cervix. A colposcope (a lighted magnifying instrument) is placed just outside the opening which provides up to 15x magnification.
The gynecologist will swab vinegar (acetic acid) or iodine over the cervix and vagina which causes abnormal tissues to turn white. This helps highlight any problem areas. Using the colposcope, the doctor closely inspects the lining for any lesions, growths, swelling, or color changes which may indicate disease.
If any suspicious areas are seen, one or more small biopsies will be collected to test for abnormal cells. Tiny sections of tissue are carefully removed using forceps or a brush and sent to the lab for examination. Biopsies are the best way to make an accurate diagnosis from a colposcopy.
After the Colposcopy
There may be some mild cramping or minor bleeding for up to a day after the test. At Sitaram Bhartia, doctors recommend avoiding douching, baths, swimming, or inserting anything in the vagina for a few days to lower infection risk while the cervix heals from any biopsies.
Results are typically available within 1-2 weeks. Along with the patient’s symptoms and Pap smear findings, colposcopy results guide the gynecologist's treatment recommendations. Follow up care ranges from "watchful waiting" to medication to surgical procedures depending on the severity of abnormalities.
In most cases, precancerous changes caught early by colposcopy can be treated before becoming cervical cancer. That’s why colposcopy plays such an integral role in preventing or curing gynecologic conditions when used appropriately.