Colposcopy: Before Your Procedure

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What is a colposcopy?

Colposcopy lets a doctor look at your vulva, vagina, and cervix. If the doctor sees a possible problem, he or she can take a small sample of tissue. Then another doctor studies the tissue under a microscope. This is called a biopsy.

Most women have this procedure after they have abnormal results from a Pap test.

During the test, your doctor puts a lubricated tool into your vagina. This is called a speculum. It gently spreads apart the sides of your vagina. This allows your doctor to see inside your vagina and the cervix. The doctor also uses a magnifying device to help him or her see better. This device does not go inside your vagina.

The doctor may put vinegar or iodine on your cervix. This can help the doctor to see any areas that are not normal. Sometimes the doctor also takes photos or videos.

When the speculum goes in, it can feel a little uncomfortable. If the doctor does a biopsy, you may feel a pinch and have some cramping.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before the procedure?

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

  • Tell your doctor if:
    • You are having your menstrual period. This test usually is not done during your period. This is because blood makes it harder to see your cervix.
    • You are or might be pregnant. A blood or urine test may be done to see if you are pregnant. Colposcopy is safe during pregnancy. The chance of miscarriage is very small. But you may have some bleeding from a biopsy.
    • You take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin.
  • Do not douche, use tampons, have sexual intercourse, or use vaginal medicines for 24 hours before the test.
  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines and natural health products you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your procedure. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before the procedure. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. Bring a copy to the hospital. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of the procedure?

  • You may want to take a pain reliever 30 to 60 minutes before the test. This can help reduce any cramping pain from a biopsy. Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) is a good choice.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.

At the doctor's office

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The procedure will take about 15 to 30 minutes.

Going home

  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your procedure.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your procedure.
  • You become ill before the procedure (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the procedure.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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