Colposcopy is a simple medical procedure that allows your gynecologist to examine your cervix. It also entails examining the lower part of the womb and the upper part of the vagina. The process is more like getting a pap smear and typically takes between five and ten minutes. While conducting this procedure, a gynecologist uses a special magnifying glass known as a colposcope. The colposcope shines a light on the cervix and magnifies the view. Usually, a colposcopy is necessary if you have some unusual results in your pap smear, and your doctor needs to determine if you have additional problems. If you need reliable colposcopy services in Los Angeles, you can get in touch with us at Gyn LA.

When is a Colposcopy Necessary?

Typically, you may need to undergo a colposcopy if the results of your cervical screening reveal abnormal cells in your cervix. In most cases, abnormal cells in the cervix disappear automatically. However, in some instances, if not treated, abnormal cells could lead to cervical cancer. After a colposcopy, a doctor can determine whether it is necessary to remove the abnormal cells from the cervix.

A doctor may recommend the procedure if, at the time of the screening, your cervix did not look as healthy as it should. If the doctor is unable to give you precise results after conducting several cervical screening tests, he/she may recommend a colposcopy.

You may require to undergo colposcopy to determine the underlying cause of certain problems like abnormal vaginal bleeding. For instance, if you often bleed after sex, the procedure may be necessary to identify the cause of bleeding. You should never panic if your gynecologist recommends a colposcopy. The chances are that you do not have cervical cancer.

Your doctor might recommend colposcopy if cervical screening results indicate that you have human papillomavirus or HPV. The procedure is effective in diagnosing cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, genital warts, and vulvar cancer. After getting results from your colposcopy, your doctor will decide whether to recommend additional tests. 

History of Colposcopy

The world colposcopy comes from the translation of two words, Colpo meaning vagina, and scope meaning to look. Therefore, colposcopy means to look into the vagina. Hans Hinselmann from Germany was the first expert to describe the process of colposcopy. In 1925, Hinselmann recommended colposcopy as an ideal procedure for screening cervical cancer. He hoped that by magnifying the cervical tissues, it would be easy to identify precursor lesions early and allow ample time for treatment before invasion and advancement of cervical cancer.

However, Hinselmann’s theories of the genesis of cervical cancer were clinically impractical. Therefore, the search for ideal methods for cervical cancer screening did not stop.  In 1920, Dr. George Papanicolaou took over the vaginal and cervical cancer investigation.  

Preparing for Colposcopy Exam

A colposcopy is a simple outpatient exam commonly done in a doctor's or gynecologist's office. Before undergoing the exam, it is advisable to avoid putting anything inside your vagina. For instance, douching or putting creams inside the vagina would make it hard for the doctor to examine the cervix.

A few days before the procedure, you should avoid having vaginal sex or using tampons. If you happen to have a heavy period on the day of your appointment, you should call your doctor and request a rescheduling of the appointment.

Ensure that you inform your doctor if you are taking medicine that is likely to thin your blood. These drugs could lead to heavy bleeding during the procedure, especially if you also undergo a biopsy. A biopsy is the removal of a small tissue from the body for testing.

It is important to inform your doctor if you are pregnant. The doctor could still carry on with the colposcopy even if you are pregnant. Getting a biopsy while pregnant is a low-risk procedure. However, the doctor is likely to avoid conducting the biopsy if you are pregnant.  Pregnant women are likely to experience more bleeding after undergoing biopsy than people who are not pregnant. This is because, during pregnancy, the cervix has an increased blood supply. It is important to note that undergoing a colposcopy or biopsy will not affect your ability to have children in the future. Therefore, you do not have to worry about the impacts of the procedure.

Before undergoing the procedure, your doctor may recommend you take a dose of over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen. The doctor might also recommend other anti-inflammatory medication before conducting the procedure. 

During the Exam

The complete colposcopy exam may take between 15 and 30 minutes, and you will be free to home the same day. During the procedure, you will have to undress from the waist down. However, you might not have to remove all of your clothing if you are wearing a loose skirt. The doctor will have you lie on your back, lift your legs, and rest them on padded supports.

The doctor will place a speculum inside your vagina to help keep it open. The speculum will open your vagina and the outside of the cervix. The doctor could use a cotton swab to apply a solution of iodine and vinegar to your cervix. You are likely to experience a mild burning sensation upon application of this solution. This solution will make any abnormal tissue in the cervix turn white. The doctor will then use a microscope with a light to look inside your vagina. This device does not need to touch or enter your vagina.

Sometimes, the doctor may find it necessary to remove a small sample of tissue from the cervix; the name for this procedure is a biopsy. The sample tissue will undergo intense examination in a laboratory. The biopsy procedure may be a little bit uncomfortable. You are also likely to experience mild cramps because of the opening of your vagina with a speculum. To help ease the discomfort during the procedure, you should try to take slow deep breaths and relax your muscles. 

If it is evident that you have abnormal cells in your cervix, your doctor could subject you to immediate treatment to remove the abnormal cells. However, if the results are still not clear, you might have to wait until the biopsy results are out before you undergo any treatment. 

The doctor may use an additional solution to help cauterize the site of the biopsy. This solution will help to form a scab and reduce bleeding. In most cases, this solution is Monsel's solution or silver nitrate. Later, you may notice a black or coffee-colored discharge as the body expels this solution. However, there is no cause for alarm because this is expected.

Colposcopy Results

Your doctor can tell you if you have abnormal cells in your cervix right after the colposcopy procedure. However, if you undergo a biopsy, you might have to wait for 4 to 8 weeks to get the results of the biopsy.

You will get a normal or abnormal result. Of the people who undergo a colposcopy, around 4 out of 10 people do not have abnormal cells in the cervix. If you do not have abnormal cells in the cervix, your doctor will advise you to continue attending your regular cervical screenings as usual.

If the test reveals the presence of abnormal cells in your cervix, you will require undergoing treatment to remove the abnormal cells. Around 6 out of 10 people who undergo colposcopy have abnormal cells in their cervix. The presence of a high number of abnormal cells in the cervix indicates an increased risk of the cells becoming cancerous. 

Sometimes, abnormal cells may heal without you undergoing any form of treatment. Therefore, your doctor may advise you to wait and return later for a Pap smear. Abnormal results may indicate several things. It may indicate that you have growths on the cervix, typically known as cervical polyps. Cervical polyps are typically non-cancerous.

Abnormal results may indicate that you have cervical warts of HPA. A biopsy helps to determine the particular strain of the infection. Abnormal results may also indicate inflammation of the cervix (cervicitis). Abnormal cells could also be a sign of cervical dysplasia, which are precancerous changes in the cervical tissue. In some cases, abnormal cells in the cervix could be a sign of cervical cancer. 

If you require a further procedure to remove abnormal cells from the cervix, your doctor may recommend certain medical procedures. Your doctor could use a laser to get rid of the abnormal cells from the cervix. The doctor could also use a cone-shaped wedge, often known as a cone biopsy, to remove abnormal cells from the cervix.  A wire loop with an electrical current could also come in handy in removing abnormal cells. This procedure is known as LEEP (Loop electrical excision procedure). 

Your doctor could also use Cryotherapy; this entails freezing the abnormal cells. Cryotherapy procedure is effective in preventing cervical cancer. When the doctor freezes the abnormal cells in your cervix, the normal cells will have an opportunity to grow back. 

The doctor will carry out the LEEP procedure while you are awake. However, the doctor needs to numb your cervix. After the LEEP abnormal cell removal, you may go home the same day. However, for a cone biopsy, you may have to stay in the hospital overnight. For a cone biopsy, the doctor conducts the procedure under general anesthesia. 

No matter the treatment you undergo, it is imperative to continue getting regular pelvic screenings. Even if the treatment procedures have a high success rate, at times, the abnormal cells may come back. 

Recovery from Colposcopy

After undergoing colposcopy, you will feel fine immediately; the procedure is over. It is normal to experience light spotting and cramping after the procedure. You are free to continue with your normal operations after the procedure. However, it is advisable to avoid vaginal sex until you have fully recovered from the procedure.

If the doctor performs a biopsy, you would require 1-2 days to recover. During this recovery period, it is normal to experience some pain and bleeding. You may also experience some dark discharge from the silver nitrate or other solution the doctor might have used to stop bleeding from biopsy.

You may take over the counter medication for any pain and discomfort you may experience after undergoing the biopsy.  After undergoing a biopsy, your doctor may advise you to avoid sexual intercourse for three days. Your doctor may also advise you against other procedures like douching and using tampons. 

You can have vaginal sex whenever you want even after undergoing colposcopy as long as you did not undergo biopsy. You can bathe or take a shower immediately after undergoing a colposcopy. If you were on medications like birth control pills, you could continue taking the medication after the colposcopy procedure.

When to Contact a Doctor

After undergoing a colposcopy and going back to your normal life, you should be alert and look out warning signs. You are not likely to experience any risk after undergoing colposcopy. However, after undergoing a biopsy, you will be at risk of bleeding or infection. It is important to inform your doctor in advance if you are allergic to latex, iodine, or any other medication.

You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience certain symptoms after undergoing biopsy. The symptoms include chills, fevers, severe bleeding, intense pain in the lower abdomen, and a heavy, colored, or foul-smelling vaginal discharge.

How can you tell that you are experiencing heavy bleeding? If you have to use more than one sanitary towel within an hour, you are indeed experiencing heavy bleeding. 

The Risks Involved

There is always a risk that the test results of colposcopy are inaccurate. However, this is a rare occurrence and should not be a cause for alarm. There is also a chance that even after the doctor removes the abnormal cells, the abnormal cells will recur. Therefore, even after the removal of abnormal cells, it is advisable to continue undergoing regular pap smears. You should continue undergoing regular pap smears even if the results of colposcopy indicate that you have normal cells. 

Find an Experienced Gynecologist Near Me

Colposcopy is a crucial procedure that can help to identify abnormal cells in the cervix early. After identifying the abnormal cells, your doctor can recommend a treatment method to prevent the occurrence of serious diseases like cancer. If you are seeking excellent colposcopy services in Los Angeles, Gyn LA can assist. Contact us at 310-375-8446 and speak to an expert.