A colposcopy is a medical procedure that allows your doctor at All Women's Care to observe your cervix, vulva, and vagina closely. The examination is to discover if there are signs of cancer or other abnormalities. The procedure calls for a special tool known as a colposcope.
The most common reason a colposcopy is deemed necessary is if your pap smear test results are returned as abnormal. If there are unusual cells discovered through a colposcopy, your doctor will remove a sample of the cells for further testing.
The thought of having to go through a colposcopy causes some stress in women. Knowing what this procedure is about may relieve some of this anxiety.
Why Do You Need a Colposcopy?
If your doctor has requested you to undergo a colposcopy, it is most likely because your pap smear has come back with ‘abnormal’ results. This procedure will be used to diagnose:
- Inflammation of cervicitis (cervix)
- Precancerous changes in the vaginal tissues
- Precancerous changes in the cervix tissue
- Precancerous changes in your vulva
- Genital warts
- Vaginal Cancer
It is rare, but there are cases of vaginal cancer in a woman’s vagina. The vagina is a muscular tube connecting the uterus to the outer genitals. This type of cancer typically occurs in the cells that line the surface of the vagina, or sometimes referred to as the birth canal.
Other forms of cancer can spread to your vagina, but cancer will rarely develop in the vagina first. If it does, and it is diagnosed early, there is a good chance of a cure. If it is allowed to spread, it will be challenging to treat.
Symptoms of vaginal cancer may not be present in the early stages of the disease. As it progresses, it will begin to display:
- Watery discharge
- A mass or lump may form in the vagina
- Frequent urination may occur
- Pain in the pelvic area
- Vaginal bleeding, such as unusual bleeding after menopause or after intercourse
- Painful urination
If you should experience any of these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your physician at All Women's Care to discover the cause and begin treatment if necessary.
- Vulvar Cancer
Vulvar cancer develops in the outer surface of the female genitalia. The vulva is the skin surrounding the urethra and vagina, including the labia and clitoris. This cancer forms typically as a sore or lump on the vulva that will cause itching. Vulvar cancer is generally diagnosed in older adults, although it can occur at any age.
To treat vulvar cancer, you would most likely require surgery. Surgery would remove a small amount of the surrounding healthy tissue along with the cancer. In rare cases, the entire vulva has to be removed.
Symptoms of vulva cancer can include:
- Tenderness and pain in the area
- Changes in the skin, such as thickening or color changes
- Itching that will not go away
- Bleeding that is not associated with menstruation
- A wart-like bump or lump resembling an open sore or ulcer
If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your physician at All Women's Care for a diagnosis and possible treatment.
Possible Risks of a Colposcopy
Colposcopy is a safe procedure and carries few risks. Complications rarely occur, but some that are possible include:
- Pain in the pelvic area
- Heavy bleeding
If you should experience bleeding that is heavier than usual, develop a fever, chills, or have severe abdominal pain, you should call your physician at All Women's Care to determine the cause.
How to Prepare for a Colposcopy
When you are scheduled for a colposcopy, it is recommended:
- You do not have vaginal intercourse the day or two days before the procedure
- Avoid scheduling a colposcopy during your menstrual cycle
- You should not use vaginal medications for at least two days before the colposcopy
- You should not use tampons the day of or at least two days prior to the procedure
- If you experience pain during a routine pap smear, you may want to take over-the-counter pain medication before a colposcopy such as Tylenol or ibuprofen
How to Deal With Anxiety Prior to Colposcopy
Waiting for a colposcopy appointment can cause much anxiety in women. Anxiety or stress can affect a person’s daily life and make one feel extremely uncomfortable. You may notice it is becoming hard to concentrate or maybe having trouble sleeping.
If you allow the stress to continue and remain anxious up until your appointment, it may cause you pain during what should be a pain-free procedure. If you are generally a person with high anxiety, waiting for this appointment may trigger more severe issues. These are some tips to help deal with your anxiety as you wait for your appointment:
- Write down what you are worried about, and what all your concerns are about having a colposcopy, and discuss these concerns with your doctor at All Women's Care. The chances are good that the doctor can explain away all your fears.
- Ask for a brochure or some pamphlets that will explain colposcopy and tell you how the procedure is performed
- Find activities that will relax you, such as meditation, exercise, and spending time with family and friends.
- Check with your doctor at All Women's Care about bringing a portable music device with you during the procedure. Some women have found it comforting to listen to music while undergoing a colposcopy.
How the Colposcopy is Performed
The colposcopy will more than likely be done in your doctor’s office. The procedure should only take about ten to twenty minutes. During this time, you will be placed on your back on the examination table with stirrups or supports used to hold your feet just as they are during a pap smear.
Your doctor will use a speculum and insert it into your vagina to open the walls and allow them to see your cervix. They will then use a tool called a colposcope, which is a magnifying instrument to show the cells on the wall of your cervix. A bright light is shone into your cervix so the doctor can see what the colposcope is magnifying.
Your vagina and cervix will be swabbed with cotton to clean away any mucus, and your doctor may use a solution containing vinegar to clean the area. The use of the solution may cause a tingling or burning sensation, but it helps to identify any suspicious cells to your doctor.
What Happens if Suspicious Cells Found During Colposcopy?
If there are suspicious cells detected during your colposcopy, the doctor will take a small sample by performing a biopsy. The biopsy involves using a small, sharp instrument to remove a small piece of tissue from your cervix. If there are numerous suspicious areas, they may take more than one sample.
When a biopsy is done, you may feel mild discomfort, much like a feeling of pressure or cramping if the sample is taken from your cervix. If a biopsy is taken from your vaginal area, the doctor will apply a local anesthetic to numb the area before the procedure, so you do not feel it is done. In some cases, your doctor might apply a chemical solution during the process to limit bleeding in the area where the biopsy was taken.
What to Expect After Colposcopy
If there was no need for a biopsy at the time of your colposcopy, you will have no restrictions and can return to regular activity after your appointment. There may be some light bleeding or spotting during the next couple of days, but this is normal and not a reason for concern.
If the doctor found suspicious cells and needed to perform a biopsy, there may be symptoms such as:
- Light bleeding for the next two days
- Vulvar or vaginal pain that could continue up to two days
- A discharge may appear which could be dark in color
If there are any signs of discharge, you should use a pad to catch it and not a tampon. Tampons, vaginal intercourse, and douching should be avoided for a week after a biopsy, or as long as your doctor feels necessary.
Results from a Colposcopy
The doctor will tell you right away if there were abnormal cells detected during the colposcopy; this would be the reason a biopsy was performed. The results from the biopsy generally take about four weeks to return to your doctor.
On average, four out of ten women who have been recommended for a colposcopy have a normal result returned. Normal indicates your cervix looks healthy, and you are a low risk for developing cervical cancer before your next pap smear. Pap smears are suggested every three to five years, depending on your age.
On average, six out of ten women have an abnormal colposcopy test result, meaning there were abnormal cells detected in their cervix. This result does not indicate cancer, but if left untreated, cancer can sometimes develop. It is very rare for cancer to be detected during a colposcopy. If this detection occurred, you would be referred to a specialist immediately.
If cervical cancer is found through this screening process and is diagnosed early enough, treatment can have a positive outcome. It is important that you schedule your regular screening appointments with All Women's Care to maintain your health.
If a mild abnormality is detected during your colposcopy, there will likely be no need for treatments. If there are any treatments scheduled, they would be to remove abnormal cervical cells and preserve as much of your healthy tissue as possible.
The most used treatment is LLETZ (large loop excision of the transformation zone). The transformation zone is at the entrance to the birth canal. The procedure involves using a wire loop that has been heated to take away any abnormal cells. A local anesthetic is generally applied before the LLETZ is done. It will take only a few minutes to complete the procedure and typically done at the same time as the colposcopy.
This removal process of abnormal cells has a ninety percent success rate. You may be scheduled for a follow-up screening to ensure the treatment worked. Another procedure that is used in removing tissue from the cervix is called a cervical cone biopsy.
Why Would You Need Cone Biopsy After Colposcopy?
A cone biopsy is done surgically to remove tissue from the cervix. A cervical cone biopsy is recommended if cells are found during a pap smear that is considered abnormal. This procedure is also done to treat early cancer and a few other conditions. In some cases, a cone biopsy is done to prevent having to take a woman’s uterus. When a cone biopsy is done, a woman can still have children.
These are some of the reasons your doctor at All Women's Care may recommend a cone biopsy:
- Abnormal pap smear results that are not explained by office biopsy
- Cervical dysplasia or disease of the cervix
- Dysplasia of the cervical canal
- Hearing that abnormal cells are growing on the surface of your cervix often causes many worries in a woman. Finding these cells are a reason for concern; however, the transition from cervical dysplasia to cancer is not automatic. There are cases where these lesions disappear if the patient has a healthy immune system. Detecting them at an early stage is critical. Doctors do not fully understand why the disease develops. Still, they have gotten treatments to an advanced point where, if diagnosed early and treated with adequate care, they can prevent cervical cancer from developing. The cone biopsy is one treatment to prevent this disease.
- Adenocarcinoma in situ
- Adenocarcinoma in situ is a condition where abnormal cells are found in glandular tissue. These tissues line specific internal organs, such as the colon, pancreas, lung, uterus, and cervix. Adenocarcinoma in situ happens most often in the cervix. It may become cancer and spread to the tissue that is normal.
During the biopsy, when having a colposcopy, only a small amount of tissue can be removed. If a larger area of tissue is needed to be taken, this is when a cone biopsy becomes necessary. The procedure can be completed as day surgery, and you can return home the same day.
Following a cone biopsy surgery, you will be asked to avoid using tampons for approximately four weeks. You will also need to abstain from sexual intercourse for four weeks. Other restrictions will include not swimming or exercising for at least two weeks, or while there are signs of discharge or bleeding.
Other Possible Treatments after Colposcopy
A colposcopy is a procedure to look for abnormal cells in your cervix. Some of the other possible treatments your doctor at All Women's Care may recommend if these cells are discovered include:
- Cold Coagulation
Cold coagulation is a procedure performed to treat abnormal cells on the cervix of women. It involves destroying the abnormal cells with a probe that is heated. It is often recommended if a woman has delicate soft cells on their cervix, which tend to bleed easily. Cold coagulation will cauterize the soft cells to make them hard and less likely to bleed when touched.
This procedure is used to destroy abnormal cells on the cervix, which have been identified during a colposcopy. It is also used if a woman experiences unusual bleeding, such as after intercourse due to cells being too soft. This cause would also have to be determined through a colposcopy.
Cryotherapy is a treatment to prevent cervical cancer. It is performed by a doctor who will use a chemical to freeze abnormal cells detected in the cervix to allow healthy cells to grow back. This procedure can also remove other growths such as warts on different parts of the body.
Cryotherapy is performed by applying freezing chemicals to the abnormal cells, which will freeze them and make them disappear. This procedure is commonly done after a pap smear or colposcopy and has a ninety percent success rate of curing the abnormal cells.
During a cryotherapy treatment, you may feel mild pressure or cramping, and your vagina will become very cold. Some patients report that they have not felt any discomfort during the process.
- Laser Treatment
With the laser treatment for abnormal cells detected during a colposcopy, a laser is used to pinpoint the abnormal cells in your cervix and destroy them.
Removal of your womb or hysterectomy is only done if abnormal cells continue to be detected in your cervix. If severe abnormalities are appearing more than once during your routine tests, the doctor may recommend a hysterectomy.
A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that removes a woman’s womb. A woman can no longer get pregnant after this is done. Several health issues would cause a doctor to recommend a hysterectomy:
- Ovarian, uterine, or cervical cancer, or if cancer develops in the fallopian tubes
- The ovaries are a small pair of organs found low in a woman’s tummy and are connected to the womb. They store a woman’s supply of eggs. Cancer of the ovaries generally only occurs in women who have gone through menopause, but it can affect younger women as well.Cancer in the uterus or womb is also a form of cancer more common in women who have gone through menopause. This cancer typically begins in the cells that line the womb and in rare cases, can start in the muscle wall of the uterus. Cervical cancer develops in the cervix, which is the entryway to the womb from the vagina. This type of cancer is most common in sexually active women between the ages of 35 to 45.
- Ovarian, uterine, or cervical cancer, or if cancer develops in the fallopian tubes
- Heavy periods
Heavy periods are common, but sometimes they become heavy; it affects a woman’s everyday life. There is not always an underlying reason for the bleeding. Still, they could be the result of fibroids or endometriosis, so it is imperative to discuss the issue with your doctor at All Women's Care.
There are several treatment options for this condition, and a hysterectomy would most likely be the last resort. Your doctor will look into all various reasons for causing heavy bleeding, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, cancer, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, or fibroids. Depending on the cause of the bleeding, treatment will be recommended. Your doctor will discuss all possible options depending on your test results.
- Chronic Pelvic Pain
Pelvic pain is a pain located below your belly button and comes on severely and suddenly, being either mild or severe and lasting for months. If you experience pelvic pain, you should contact your doctor at All Women's Care immediately.
Not all cases of pelvic pain can be diagnosed; in many cases, the cause can be attributed to:
- Ovarian cysts
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Urinary tract infection
There are many reasons for pelvic pain, as well as various treatments. You will want to talk with your doctor at All Women's Care to discuss your options. Hysterectomy may be one result to eliminate your pain, but there are other treatments you can pursue before this result.
- Non-cancerous (fibroids) tumors p>Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that can develop around or in the womb. These tumors consist of fibrous tissue and muscle, and their size can vary. Women can have these growths without symptoms, but in those who do have symptoms, they report:
- Heavy and painful periods
- Discomfort or pain during sex
- Lower back pain
- Abdominal pain
- Frequent urination
As with other causes which can lead to a hysterectomy, non-cancerous tumors can be the result of different causes, and treatments can include other options before having a hysterectomy. Discuss your symptoms, treatments, and possible options with your doctor at All Women's Care if you are experiencing any of the above discomforts.
After these treatments, you can go home, and most women feel good enough to go back to work and perform most of their normal activities the next day.
Where Can I have a Colposcopy Near Me?
If you are experiencing any pain or discomfort in your pelvic or abdominal areas, you should have the doctors at All Women's Care diagnosis what is causing the pain. Most cervical issues can be treated and cured if diagnosed early. Call 213-250-9461 today and schedule an appointment and discuss your symptoms with our experienced women’s doctors. We can provide you care and treatment for a wide range of women’s health issues using the highest standards and excellence.