A colposcopy is a type of diagnostic test that focuses on the cervix, vagina and female genitalia and it allows for effective access and an enlarged view of the area.
This test is also called cervical transparency, it can diagnose whether there are changes in the cells (CIN), whether there are lesions and whether they are precancerous or malignant.
When is the right time to get a colposcopy?
This test will usually be given after your doctor has requested it if they suspect it is necessary. They may suspect it is due to an abnormal Pap smear result, or if you are experiencing bleeding during intercourse.
read more about Intermenstrual bleeding
How does the procedure work?
The test is performed by a gynecologist who specializes in cervical diseases. The test is performed in the doctor’s clinic and in a sterile and intimate environment. Your gynecologist will gently spread the vagina by a speculum (vaginal spreader) to allow access for a more effective observation.
The examination is performed by a colposcope (external microscope), which provides an enlarged view- up to 60x- of the area. The colposcope is inserted into the vagina directly, up to the cervix, and by using the microscope and light in the colposcope the doctor can examine the area efficiently.
The test contains the use of iodine and acetic acid that will allow a distinction to be made in the type, shape and boundaries of the lesions and whether they are abnormal. With this test, the doctor can more clearly understand the findings that were suspicious in the PAP test and know how to diagnose them.
During the test, the doctor may take a tissue sample also called a “biopsy,” in order to diagnose whether these are precancerous (benign) lesions or whether they are cancerous. These will be sent for an external laboratory test.
How to prepare for a colposcopy?
It is important to note- the test may cause physical and mental discomfort, but remember that this is a completely legitimate and natural procedure advised for our health first and foremost!
You do not have to prepare in advance for this test, but it is advisable to schedule it when you are not menstruating. You should also come with previous Pap smears and any other medical documents that are relevant.
During the test, the doctor will go over a number of questions, for example – drug sensitivities, previous pregnancies, last date of menstruation, use of contraception, and more.
It is important you come knowledgeable about the process of the colposcopy, in order to ensure your mental wellbeing. There is nothing to stress over, even in the case of pap smears showing abnormalities, it does not necessarily mean something is wrong.
The test does not require preliminary treatment, anesthesia, or incisions, it is an invasive and perhaps a slightly uncomfortable process, but it should not cause you to panic.
Are there any side effects?
During the procedure, you might feel some discomfort in the uterine area. If the doctor has not taken a biopsy sample, you will hardly feel any side effects and you’ll be able to return to normal and regular activity. If the doctor decides to take a biopsy sample from the tissues, you may feel uterine contractions during and after the test (similar to contractions during menstruation), which usually go away on their own. In rarer cases, bleeding may occur and if necessary, a doctor should be consulted.
Other uses for a colposcopy!
Aside from the procedure’s usefulness as a test, it can also be a form of treatment. Colposcopy is used, if necessary, as a laser treatment capable of chemically burning and freezing the area which contributes to the growth of new and healthy tissue. There are cases where the lesions found in the cervical cavity are removed. In such a case, it is necessary to know which lesions are involved. It is also possible to use an electric current to receive a total sample of the area.
What measures can we take to keep safe?
The goal of the colposcopy is to accurately determine whether cancerous lesions are present, even in the early stages. It is important to know that the primary reason for cervical cancer is HPV. HPV is transferred through sexual contact with someone who has the virus. Since we don’t always know the sexual history of our partners, it is important to always use protection, like a condom, which creates a barrier between the two areas.
In addition, there is a vaccine against HPV, which is recommended for before you start to have sex, because it prevents infection even without the use of condoms.