What is a Colposcopy?
A Colposcopy is a simple gynaecological procedure performed to investigate certain symptoms you may be experiencing, or following an abnormal smear test result. It essentially takes a closer look at your cervix, vagina and vulva to look for signs of disease.
Typical symptoms where a colposcopy would be used include:
- Unexplained pain
- Unexplained bleeding or other reproductive problems
- Benign growths such as polyps
- Tests show that you have human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Genital warts
How is a Colposcopy performed?
To prepare for a colposcopy, you should refrain from using any types of creams, tampons or douching products for a few days before your procedure. You should also abstain from sexual intercourse during this time. This will enable your doctor to get the best view of the tissue to be examined. It is also advisable to book your appointment when you are not menstruating as blood flow may obscure the tissue.
If you are pregnant, you can still have a colposcopy performed, but your doctor may not perform a biopsy in conjunction with it.
What happens during a Colposcopy?
A colposcopy is usually performed in a GP practice, community health centre or hospital outpatient setting. You will be asked to disrobe the same way that you would for a smear test and lie on an examination table. Your feet will be placed on footrests. Your doctor will use a speculum to hold the vagina open, then swab the area to be examined with a vinegar-like solution to make it more visible to help identify any abnormal cells.
The colposcope is a small microscope that resembles a set of binoculars and has a range of magnification lenses. The colour filters allow the doctor to detect tiny abnormal blood vessels on the cervix. Your doctor may take a biopsy at the time if it is felt necessary. This will involve a small piece of tissue being removed from the abnormal area that is then sent to a laboratory for further testing. Depending on the outcome, this will indicate what further steps your doctor should take to properly treat you.