Colposcopy Procedures

What is it?

Colposcopy is a painless examination of the cervix and vagina with a colposcope. If you need colposcopy, it just means that your cervix needs careful examination.

What is a colposcope?

A colposcope is a low-power microscope mounted on a stand, used to look at the cervix and vagina under magnification. The colposcope does not touch your body. It may have a camera attached so that you are able to watch the test on a TV screen in the room, and so that pictures of the cervix can be kept and used to check for change at a later exam.

Why do I need colposcopy?

If your Pap smear shows the presence of abnormal cells or if your cervix looks abnormal, colposcopy can help in diagnosis of problems and in planning treatment. Being sent for colposcopy does not mean that you have cancer.

How is it done?

  • A colposcopy is usually done between your periods and generally takes less than 15 minutes.
  • You lie in the same position as you would to have a Pap smear done.
  • A speculum is inserted into your vagina to give a view of the cervix and vagina, and your cervix is cleaned with a special solution.
  • Most of the exam time is spent just looking at the cervix and vagina through the colposcope. If an abnormality is found, a biopsy or tissue sample is taken, improving the accuracy of diagnosis.

What is a cervical biopsy?

Biopsy is the removal of a small piece of tissue from the cervix with a specially-designed instrument. The biopsied tissue is sent to a laboratory where it's further examined.

What is LEEP?

LEEP, or "loop electrosurgical procedure" uses an electrical wire to remove an abnormal piece of tissue on the cervix.

What is Laser Treatment?

Laser treatment uses a small intense beam of light to vaporize or destroy abnormal cells on the vagina or cervix.

What is cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy uses an instrument called a cryoprobe that rapidly freezes and destroys abnormal tissue.

Are these procedures painful?

  • Some women experience a sharp pinch or menstrual-like cramp.
  • A local anaesthetic may be injected into the cervix (like the freezing you get at the dentist) to minimize discomfort. A tampon may be inserted following the procedure and can be removed later that same day.
  • There may be slight spotting or bleeding for a few days after the procedure.

What instructions should I follow afterwards?

  • It is important to follow instructions given to you after the procedure regarding sexual activity and use of tampons. The instructions will depend on what procedure is used.
  • If you are using birth control pills or the patch, continue with them as usual.

What complications can there be?

Call you family physician, the physician who did your procedure, or your Opt clinic if you have any of the following:

  • Fever of 39° C or 102.2° F or higher
  • Severe pain not relieved by an over-the counter pain medication
  • Unusually heavy or bad-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding
  • Any unusual symptoms or problems, or any other questions.

Will I need more treatment?

  • Sometimes the exam shows that no immediate treatment is necessary and that you only need a follow-up Pap test. If you do need treatment, the doctor who did the colposcopy, or the doctor who referred you, will discuss the options with you and arrange for them.
  • Following any of these procedures, a diagnosis and/or treatment report is forwarded to the doctor who performed your colposcopy. A copy also goes to the doctor or OPT clinic that referred you for the colposcopy.
  • Make sure you have a follow-up appointment to review your results with the doctor who referred you or with your Opt clinic.

Are there any possible side effects or complications?

  • These procedures cause very little damage to healthy surrounding tissue, and they are unlikely to harm your health, including any future childbearing ability.
  • The procedures are safe to do during pregnancy, but be sure to tell the doctor if you are pregnant.

Revised March 2009