Medically Reviewed by Merritt King, III, MD
“I think we should do a colposcopy.” (kull-POS-sku-pee) Another medical term. What does it mean? What should I expect?
“When we find some abnormal cells from a Pap smear, you have an irritated cervix or vagina (possibly genital warts or HPV) or you have unexplained cervical or vaginal bleeding, we may recommend a colposcopy,” says McLeod OB/GYN Merritt King, MD. “It involves using a lighted, magnifying instrument to look inside your cervix and vagina.”
BEFORE THE PROCEDURE
Your gynecologist will give you some suggestions in preparation before the procedure. They may tell you that before the procedure:
DURING THE PROCEDURE
The physician positions you on the exam table with your feet in the stirrups, similar to a regular exam. The OB/GYN swabs your cervix and vagina with a solution that makes it dry and easier to see abnormal cells.
After placing a speculum to open the vaginal walls, your physician will look through the eyepiece of the lighted instrument.
If your OB/GYN sees any abnormal cells, they take a biopsy (a small tissue sample) for laboratory examination. You might feel a slight sting from the cleaning solution and pinch if a tissue sample is taken.
AFTER THE COLPOSCOPY
After your appointment, you should be able to continue your daily routine, including driving.
For up to a week after the colposcopy, do not douche, have sex or place creams or tampons in your vagina. Your OB/GYN may have other guidance for you.
If the OB/GYN took a biopsy, you may experience light bleeding or a brownish discharge for a few days. You should not have any lasting pain. Light pain can be treated with over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE
If it makes you feel more comfortable, bring a support person with you to the procedure.
Your doctor will either call you or ask you back to the office to discuss any lab findings from the tissue sample.
After the colposcopy, see your doctor if these appear or continue:
Find an OB/GYN near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine