Who Should Have a Colposcopy?

Pap smears and mammograms are just a few of the many different procedures that can happen at your OB/GYN’s office. With so many options, you might not know exactly what each procedure is and whether you need it in the first place. 

0At Women’s Health Services, we believe one of the most important parts of women’s health is being completely informed about your treatment, diagnostic, and preventive options. 

Our experienced team of doctors are dedicated to educating you on our service options including colposcopies, so you can be sure you’re receiving the best care possible.

The basics of colposcopies

Gynecology is one of medicine’s oldest practices. But advanced surgical, evaluative, and diagnostic methods have only been available to women since the 19th century. In fact, colposcopies weren’t popularly used in gynecology until the 1960s. 

The first step in deciding whether or not you need a colposcopy is understanding the procedure itself. Literally translated, colposcopy means to look into the vagina and that’s exactly what our doctors do. We use a special medical instrument called a colposcope to examine your cervix, vagina, and vulva very closely. 

Colposcopies are very similar to a typical pelvic exam. To prepare, you’ll recline comfortably on an examination table as a tool called a speculum is inserted into your vagina to separate your vaginal walls. Our doctors administer a solution made of vinegar to make abnormal cells more visible. 

The actual viewing device doesn’t enter your body but is set up a few inches away from your body. A bright light shines on your vagina and into your cervix, giving us a magnified view of anything that might seem unusual.

Many women feel anxious before their colposcopy. We suggest you come prepared with any questions or concerns, have a few stress management techniques in your back pocket, or even bring along some headphones and soothing music to get you through the exam. 

Who needs a colposcopy?

Not everyone needs a colposcopy but there are certain situations where it becomes necessary. Here are a few of the reasons why you might need a colposcopy:

You had an abnormal Pap smear

You’re likely familiar with or have had a few pap smears in your lifetime. This is the routine exam you get every few years that swabs your cervix and checks for any signs of disease, cancer, or other abnormal changes.

Should your Pap smear come back with abnormal results, we recommend a colposcopy to get a better look at your vagina and cervix. 

Something didn’t look right during your pelvic exam

Our doctors will conduct a general pelvic exam when you come in for a well-woman visit. This isn’t as invasive as a Pap smear but if we notice something unusual, we may ask you to come back for a colposcopy. 

You’ve tested positive for HPV

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection. Some strains of the virus cause genital warts and others cause cervical cancer. If you test positive for HPV, we conduct a colposcopy to understand which strain you have by examining your cervix closer for warts or taking a biopsy to diagnose cervical cancer. 

You have other vaginal concerns

If you have unexplained bleeding or other concerns, we can use colposcopy to investigate your vaginal area and cervix and better understand your problem. The results of this procedure can better guide our treatment. 

Preparing for your colposcopy

If it’s been determined you need a colposcopy for further evaluation, there are a few things you should do to get ready.

We recommend you schedule your colposcopy around your period and avoid sex, tampons, or vaginal medications a day or two before your appointment. We also recommend you wear comfortable clothing so you feel at ease when your procedure begins. 

There’s no downtime following your appointment, so you can return to your normal activities. You might notice some light spotting, mild pain or discomfort, or dark discharge afterward, especially if you needed a biopsy. Call our doctors if the pain or bleeding is severe.

Although pelvic exams like colposcopies aren’t the most comfortable, they can save your life. If you’d like more information or would like to request an appointment with one of our doctors, contact our office.

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