What is a colposcopy?
Colposcopy is an in-office procedure usually used to evaluate the cervix for dysplasia, or pre-cancerous cells, after an abnormal pap smear. Remember that a pap smear is only a screening tool; the colposcopy procedure enables us to actually diagnosis cervical dysplasia.
Colposcopy may also be used to evaluate the vaginal walls or vulva (external vaginal area) for abnormalities.
How is a colposcopy done?
During the colposcopic examination, a speculum is placed in the vagina and the cervix visualized, just like during your annual exam. A dilute vinegar solution is dabbed on the cervix with a large, soft cotton swab, and then the cervix is visualized with a colposcope.
The colposcope machine is similar to a pair of binoculars that provide us with a magnified view of your cervix. If any abnormal changes are seen on the cervix, a small biopsy (smaller than a grain of rice!) is taken and sent to the pathologist for review.
The final treatment plan depends on the findings at the time of colposcopy and pathology results. Follow-up plans may include more frequent pap smear screening, usually every 6 months, or a procedure to remove the abnormal cells from the cervix.
If a cervical biopsy is taken, a mustard-colored solution called “Monsel’s solution” is usually applied to the biopsy site to stop any bleeding. When this solution mixes with blood it can create a brown discharge that looks similar to coffee grounds. It is very normal to experience this brown discharge and a small amount of spotting after a colposcopy.
We recommend wearing a panty liner or pad to protect your underwear after the procedure. The provider who performs your colposcopy will review any recommended activity restrictions, specifically if it is necessary to refrain from sexual intercourse following the procedure.