Abnormal results from a pap smear can mean a variety of things. To understand what is happening in the cervix, the experts at Ob-Gyn Associates utilize the colposcopy procedure. With the colposcope tool, doctors can obtain a clear diagnosis and determine whether treatment is needed.
What is a colposcopy?
When a doctor believes a woman could have abnormal or pre-cancerous cervical cells, the doctor will usually suggest a colposcopy procedure and, occasionally, a colposcopy and biopsy together. A colposcopy is used to view the cervix close-up. This helps detect abnormal cells on and around the cervix. During the procedure, the doctor uses a colposcope, which is a camera with two eyepieces and a bright light mounted on a stand.
Why would I need a colposcopy?
A colposcopy is used when:
- A Pap smear test returned with abnormal results and HPV is present
- The cervix looks abnormal during an exam
- The patient is having unexplained bleeding or other issues
- The doctor needs to determine whether additional tests or treatments are required
What is a biopsy?
To obtain a tiny sample of cervical cells a biopsy is performed. The cells are then sent to a lab. In the case of the cervix, cells are usually scraped off for a sample.
What happens during the procedure?
A colposcopy doesn’t require an anesthetic and can be performed in the doctor’s office. The patient will lie down on the exam table. A speculum is placed into the vagina to open up the walls. Patients can feel some pressure when the speculum is inserted. The doctor swabs the cervix and the walls of the vagina with a vinegar-type mixture. The solution eliminates mucus and also makes abnormal cells appear white and more visible. Patients might feel a slight burning sensation. The doctor might also apply iodine to make the abnormal cells more detectible. The doctor will view the magnified cervix and vagina with the colposcope. The instrument does not enter the body. Biopsies are obtained from areas that appear to contain abnormal cells. This is done in two ways:
- By scraping with a small brush or metal loop
- By taking a punch biopsy of tissue roughly the size of half a grain of rice
The tissue obtained is sent to a lab to be tested. A colposcopy and biopsy typically takes approximately 10 minutes.