A colposcopy procedure magnifies and illuminates the vulva, walls of the vagina and cervical regions for detection and examination of any abnormalities in these structures. The foot of the uterus is made of the cervix which leads into the vagina or the birth canal. In a colposcopy, special tests are performed including using colored filters, biopsy or sampling of tissues and acetic acid wash.
Colposcopy is different from culdoscopy where an instrument is inserted into the vaginal wall for visualizing the pelvic region beyond the vagina.
Basics of the colposcopy procedure
Generally colposcopy is done for examining the cervical region in case of abnormal Pap smear results, or if the cervix appears abnormal while the Pap smear is being collected.
Even when the outcomes of the Pap smear are normal, a colposcopy may be done if the cervix looks visibly anomalous to the physician who performs the Pap smear test.
The colposcopy aims to determine the cause of abnormal appearance of the cervix or Pap smear to administer appropriate treatment. In the colposcopy, a colposcope is used. The colposcope looks like binoculars. It is a microscope like instrument which contains different lenses for magnification. The colposcopy procedure also uses color filters which allow the doctor to locate the presence of small abnormal blood vessels in the cervical region.
The cervix and walls of the vagina are examined with the help of a colposcope through the opening in the vagina. In the procedure, the vagina and vulva are examined for any sign of warts or growths (that may be caused by the HPV or human papilloma virus, a sexually transmitted germ which leads to cervical cancer.
The Pap smear is obtained and the cervix is scrutinized by different kinds of special tests. Colposcopy is a secure process without complications except vaginal spotting.
In the colposcopy procedure, the examiner takes a look of the squamocolumnar junction, the cervical region where cervical cancer usually develops. The squamocolumnar junction is the edge between the squamous and columnar cells which generally line the endocervical canal which joins the cervix and the uterus.
Usually, the instances of cervical cancer begin from squamous cells. Hence, they are termed squamous cell cervical cancers. In a colposcopy, the whole of the squamocolumnar junction is visible in young women. After menopause, it shifts into the endocervical canal. Hence, colposcopy is inadequate in elderly women. If the whole of the squamocolumnar junction cannot be viewed, other processes are adopted.
The process itself is not painful and additional methods may be performed simultaneously which can lead to bleeding, dark vaginal discharge and pain. Prescription or OTC medications may be used for the treatment of any discomfort or pain which arises as a result of the colposcopy procedure.
Depending on these processes, added tests and methods of treatment may be required to be done. If you are not okay with any part of the process or have questions, feel free to approach your healthcare provider. They will give you a thorough idea of what to expect.