As part of your routine pelvic exam, you have a Pap smear, which is a test that looks for changes in the cells of your cervix that could be a sign of cervical cancer. Although Pap smears usually reveal no abnormalities, sometimes they uncover abnormal or unusual cells that require further investigation.
When a Pap smear discovers abnormal cells, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cervical cancer or even pre-cancer. However, it does mean the cells in your cervix need closer examination to determine what kinds of cells they are and whether they pose a risk.
A procedure known as a colposcopy provides more information about abnormal cells found during your Pap smear. Your doctors at The Association for Women’s Health Care are experts at performing colposcopies. We’d like to share some important information with you about this procedure.
Your doctor performs your colposcopy right in our office. You lie on an exam table just as you do during your routine pelvic exams. Your doctor inserts a metal speculum into your vagina to open it for examination.
Next, your provider uses a medical device known as a colposcope to look closely at your cervix, vulva, and vagina. The colposcope contains a bright light and a magnifying tool that allows your doctor to examine changes in vaginal or cervical tissue and identify abnormal cells.
During your colposcopy, your doctor brushes your cervix with a vinegar-like solution known as acetic acid that causes abnormal cells to turn white.
Your doctor also uses a filter that shines colored light onto your tissue. This can highlight changes in blood vessels that may develop as a result of precancerous changes in your tissue.
If needed, your doctor takes some very small tissue samples, known as biopsies, during your colposcopy. Your doctor can learn more about your cells by analyzing these tissue samples under a microscope.
Overall, a colposcopy usually takes no longer than about 15 minutes. Although you may feel slightly uncomfortable during the procedure, most women find that it feels about the same as having a Pap smear. You may experience some minor spotting for a day or two after the procedure.
Once your doctor has more information about your cells, you’ll receive a recommendation about whether you need further care. You may require no treatment at all, as the abnormal cells may resolve on their own. Or your doctor may suggest follow-up exams or procedures.
Having regular Pap tests and following up as needed makes sense because they can provide early detection for cervical cancer and cellular changes that may lead to cervical cancer. It typically takes several years for abnormal cells to develop into cervical cancer, so it’s highly advantageous to find abnormal cells early.
Here at The Association for Women’s Health Care, we know that having a colposcopy can be stressful. That’s why we go out of our way to make you feel comfortable. Our doctors have extensive experience performing colposcopies, and our entire team of providers are here to help you and answer your questions every step of the way.
We stand ready to provide comprehensive OB/GYN care to women living in Chicago and Northbrook, Illinois. To make an appointment, call one of our offices or use our convenient online booking tool today.