A colposcopy is a procedure in which the gynecologist or nurse examines the patient’s cervix, vagina, and vulva for abnormalities. An instrument called a colposcope that looks like a set of binoculars with a light attached is used. The colposcope gives the medical professional a better view of the patient’s vulva, vagina, and cervix. The colposcope may sometimes also be attached to a camera so that pictures can be taken and changes can be tracked.
What Happens During a Colposcopy?
A colposcopy can take anywhere from ten to thirty minutes, on average. A speculum is used to hold the patient’s vagina open so the inside can be seen. The doctor or nurse will then position the colposcope, which sits on a stand, to get the best view possible.
If something suspicious is found, the professional will take a tissue biopsy to send to the lab. A biopsy of the cervix generally doesn’t cause anything worse than mild cramps or a feeling or pressure.
Why Would Somebody Get a Colposcopy?
The gynecologist may recommend a colposcopy under the following circumstances:
• The patient’s Pap smear shows abnormal results
• The patient has abnormal bleeding from the vagina and/or cervix
• The patient has an inflamed spot on the vagina or cervix
• The patient’s mother took a medication called diethylstilbestrol (DIES) while pregnant with the patient. Prenatal exposure to DIES increases the risks of some types of cancer.
If the patient underwent a colposcopy followed by a biopsy, they may have some discomfort for one or two days. Over-the-counter medication may ease the discomfort.
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