Colposcopy is a procedure for clinical examination of the female genital organs such as the vulva, vagina, and cervix. It is done using a magnifying device with a light source called a colposcope. Colposcopy is performed to examine for any inflammatory changes, injuries, or cancerous growths in the region of the vulva, vagina, and cervix.
Colposcopy may be performed when the cervical screening test or pap smear results are abnormal indicating abnormal changes are present in the cervix. Colposcopy is also recommended in women with unexplained pelvic pain, unexplained vaginal bleeding after sexual intercourse, and inflamed cervix.
You will need to inform your physician about your menstrual status, pregnancy status, any health problems, medications, including over the counter drugs, and allergies. You should schedule your colposcopy appointment when you are off your menstrual cycle. You will be instructed not to engage in sex, nor use any vaginal medications, douches, creams or tampons one day before the procedure. Pain relievers may be given 30 minutes before starting the procedure to keep you comfortable.
The overall colposcopy procedure takes about ten minutes to perform. During colposcopy, you will lie down on your back on a special chair, with knees drawn up, and legs spread apart. The colposcopist inserts a device called a speculum into your vagina to open the vagina and allow the cervix to be visible. The cervix and vagina will be swabbed with a solution of iodine or vinegar to remove any mucus and make the abnormal areas more visible. The colposcopist examines the cervix for any abnormalities using a colposcope, placed outside the vagina. If any abnormal area is found, a biopsy, sample of tissue, will be removed for further examination under a microscope.
After colposcopy, you may have some vaginal pain and bleeding for a couple of days. You will not have any restriction to your daily activities. If a biopsy is done, you may have a small amount of brown or black vaginal discharge. Using douches, vaginal creams and participating in sex are not recommended until the bleeding subsides. Consult your physician if you have any infectious symptoms like fever, chills, heavy vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain or cramps.
Risks and complications
Colposcopy is a safe clinical procedure. The major risks associated with colposcopy include heavy bleeding, infection, and pelvic or abdominal pain.
In pregnant women, colposcopy can lead to complications during the pregnancy as well as early labour. Although colposcopy provides the ability to examine the affected area, there is a chance that the physician may not be able to determine the problem or take a biopsy from the exact area of the affected tissue, resulting in the need for further tests to determine the problem.