If your doctor or gynaecologist wants to check for changes in the state of your vagina, vulva or cervix, they will do so through a Colposcopy. Before the day of your appointment, you should know all there is to know about the procedure. Below are all you need to know about Colposcopy and how to prepare for it. If you need to see a gynaecologist, contact well woman clinic London for appointments and consultations.
What is a Colposcopy, and why do I need one?
A Colposcopy is a procedure that detects the presence of cancerous cells or abnormal cells in the cervical region, vulva or vagina. The abnormal cells detected may not be cancerous yet, but they may potentially become cancerous in the future. Also called precancerous tissue, these abnormal cells are likely to grow into cancer cells if ignored for long periods.
Besides detecting cancerous and precancerous cells and tissue, a Colposcopy also detects genital warts or growths that are non-cancerous, popularly known as polyps.
A Colposcopy is carried out with a special instrument known as a colposcope, and it is used by the gynaecologist to create a magnified and illuminated view of the tissues that make up the vagina, vulva or cervix. Although the colposcope magnifies and illuminates these areas, it is not inserted into the body, instead it is placed close to the body.
What is the difference between Colposcopy and a Pap test?
A Pap smear test or a Pap test is a gynaecological procedure that collects cell samples from the cervix and tests them for any changes that can indicate the onset of cervical cancer. If abnormal cells are detected after the Pap smear, or if the patient tests positive for HPV, then the situation can be properly diagnosed with a Colposcopy. There are certain diseases that can increase a woman’s chances of having cervical, vulval or vaginal cancer, and one of these diseases is the Human Papilloma Virus also known as HPV. Your doctor may also recommend a Colposcopy if you are experiencing symptoms of cervical, vulval or vaginal cancer.
What happens during a Colposcopy?
A Colposcopy procedure is carried out in a gynaecologist’s office or in the office of your doctor. On the day of the appointment, you will be asked to lie down on the examination table and place the heels of your feet in the stirrups of the table. The doctor or gynaecologist will use a speculum to open up your vagina so they can get a clearer view of your cervix. A vinegar or iodine solution will then be used to wipe your cervix, vulva and vagina. This is to help the doctor get a better view of the abnormal areas. The colposcope is then placed very close to your vagina without inserting it in.
What happens if an abnormal area is detected during the Colposcopy?
Even during Colposcopy, a biopsy can be performed on unhealthy areas. A biopsy is a procedure that removes a small amount of tissue from the cervix, to be examined later by a pathologist. If there are abnormal cells present in the tissue sample, the pathologist will be able to detect them by viewing the tissue under a microscope. Colposcopies only speculate or assume there is a cancerous or a precancerous cell, but it is a biopsy that will actually confirm if the cells are cancerous or not. During the biopsy, all of the abnormal areas can be removed if it is small.
The location of the tissue that is being biopsied will determine the type of biopsy that you will get. The most common biopsy is one in which an instrument is used to snap off pieces of suspicious tissues in the cervical area. Another type of biopsy is the endocervicalcurett age biopsy, that inspects an area in the cervix. During a biopsy, the pain felt is not enough to worry about. It is similar to menstrual cramps, and a local anaesthetic can be used to numb the area before the procedure. Speak to your doctor and find out which type of biopsy could be done during your Colposcopy.
What do I need to do before a Colposcopy?
For 24 – 48 hours before a Colposcopy, your doctor will advise you to stop using vaginal creams, powders or medicines. Additionally, you should not have any vaginal sexual intercourse; you should not use tampons or place any item in your vagina for a day or two prior to the Colposcopy.
If you are pregnant, or you think you may be pregnant, inform your doctor before the Colposcopy is scheduled. Do not have the Colposcopy scheduled when you are on your menstrual period. In case you have a biopsy alongside the Colposcopy, you can ask your doctor if you can take some over-the-counter medications for pain afterwards.
Are there any side effects from Colposcopy?
There are no side effects directly linked to Colposcopy; however, if a biopsy was done, you might experience a dark discharge from your vagina for a few days. This is a result of the solution used by the doctors to reduce bleeding during a biopsy. Bleeding, cramps and soreness may also be experienced as part of the side effects after a Colposcopy/biopsy. However,they should only last for a while. If the bleeding persists, or if there is pain in the lower abdomen, report to your doctor immediately. After your Colposcopy, you should also stay away from vaginal sexual intercourse or from using tampons or any material that goes into the vagina until your doctor says it’s okay to do so again.
What happens after the biopsy results come back?
If the results from your biopsy during a Colposcopy show that precancerous tissues are present, then the tissue would have to be removed so they will not develop fully into cancer. There are different methods of removal, and the doctor will explain which method is best for you. If the results show that cancer is already present, you will have to go through more tests before you can begin treatment. In the case of cancer, your doctor will refer you to a gynaecologist oncologist. This is a specialist who treats gynecologic cancer. During your treatment for precancerous cells, you will have to go through more colposcopies so that the treatment will be monitored and progress taken down.
If you are experiencing symptoms that make you suspicious about cervical, vulval or vaginal cancer, visit private gynaecologist London immediately for a Colposcopy and possible biopsy. If you do not know where or how to begin, contact us at Gynae-Clinic for help.
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