An abnormal pap smear result can create plenty of anxiety until the source of the irregularity can be pinpointed. Dr. Silvers might recommend a colposcopy for this purpose, which is a nonsurgical procedure done in his office to provide a closer examination of the vaginal and cervical tissue. The procedure utilizes a special instrument called a colposcope to magnify and illuminate the area for optimal viewing and diagnosis. If a biopsy is needed, it can be performed at the same time as the colposcopy to avoid the need for additional appointments.

At a time when you might already be nervous about test results, the thought of another procedure can provoke even more anxiety. Rest assured Dr. Silvers and his team will do everything possible to ensure you are comfortable throughout the process. They will also take the time to explain the procedure and answer your questions beforehand, so you know exactly what to expect with your colposcopy.

The Lowdown on the Colposcopy

The colposcopy is an office procedure used to determine whether tissue that appeared abnormal during a pap smear needs to be biopsied to determine whether a malignancy or pre-cancer condition is present. The process allows Dr. Silvers a closer examination of the internal tissue, so he can detect any irregularities that would warrant further inspection. If he sees a potential concern, he can remove a piece of the tissue to send to a laboratory for further assessment. This process is known as taking a biopsy.

Why Do I Need a Colposcopy?

Most of the time, colposcopy is advised if the test results of a pap smear come back as abnormal. This result does not necessarily mean cancer is present – it is merely an indication that the cells of the cervix have changed. Changes can range from mild to malignant. The sooner you schedule follow-up testing, the sooner you will know what the changes mean and whether treatment is required to address them.

A colposcopy may be used to assess other conditions as well, including:

  • Inflammation of the cervix
  • Genital warts around the cervix
  • Precancerous changes in cervical tissue
  • Precancerous changes in vaginal tissue

A colposcopy may also be recommended for women that were exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) in utero since this exposure can increase a woman’s risk for cancer of the reproductive organs later in life.

Preparing for Your Procedure

There are a few preparatory measures Dr. Silvers will give you before your colposcopy. These steps might include:

  • Schedule your procedure after your menstrual cycle to ensure the most accurate results
  • Do not use tampons, douches or vaginal medications for 24 hours before your procedure
  • Avoid intercourse for 24-48 hours before your appointment as well

No anesthesia is used during this procedure, but Dr. Silvers will recommend that you take over-the-counter pain medication before you come in for your appointment to keep you comfortable during your procedure.

What to Expect during Your Colposcopy

The colposcopy is performed in one of our examination rooms. You will lie on the table with your feet in stirrups, just like you do for an examination. Dr. Silvers will begin by inserting a speculum that opens up the vagina to provide a clear view of the cervix. The colposcope is placed in the opening next, which magnifies and illuminates the cervix and surrounding area. In some cases, a vinegar solution is applied to the area to highlight abnormal tissue that may require further assessment.

If a biopsy is required, Dr. Silvers can perform it during the same appointment. This step involves the use of a sharp instrument to remove a small piece of tissue. If the biopsy is around the cervix, the process is not overly painful and does not usually require any anesthetic. Vaginal biopsies can be more uncomfortable, so Dr. Silvers may administer a local numbing medication before removing the tissue.

What to Expect After Your Colposcopy

If your colposcopy does not include a biopsy, you should have no residual side effects from your procedure. Some women experience some mild spotting for a day or two, but it will not be enough to keep you from any of your activities. Many patients return to their daily routine right away.

If you do have a biopsy, you may experience a bit of discomfort and more significant bleeding after your procedure. Over-the-counter pain medication can be used for the first couple of days to help you manage these side effects. While you will be able to return to most activities right away, Dr. Silvers may recommend avoiding intercourse, tampons and douching for a week or so to give the area that was biopsied ample time to heal. Strenuous exercise may also need to wait for a few days to avoid possible complications like excessive bleeding.

What to Expect from Your Colposcopy Results

When a biopsy is done during a colposcopy, your results of that test may show one of the following classifications:

  • Mild dysplasia, indicated by abnormal cells
  • Moderate dysplasia
  • Severe dysplasia could indicate a precancerous condition
  • Cervical cancer

Based on the findings, Dr. Silvers may recommend monitoring for a period of time or seek further treatments if indicated. Most patients will only require a routine followup.

A colposcopy can be anxiety-producing, both due to the reason for the test and the procedure itself. Dr. Silvers and his team understand this can be a difficult time for a woman and will take every step possible to make the process as comfortable and pleasant as possible. To learn more about this procedure, contact Dr. Silver’s office today at 305-535-9600.