What is Colposcopy?
Colposcopy is an examination of the vagina, cervix and vulva with an instrument called a colposcope.
WHAT IS A COLPOSCOPE?
A colposcope is a special type of microscope, which allows the doctor to examine the tissues of the cervix, vagina and vulva more clearly by magnification.
WHEN IS COLPOSCOPY USED?
A referral for colposcopy DOES NOT mean that you have cancer.
Colposcopy is used as a diagnostic procedure for women who have abnormal Pap smears or gynecologic skin problems. If you are pregnant, it is particularly useful as it has no side effect on the pregnancy and may enable the doctor to safely defer further investigations until after your baby is born.
WHY IS COLPOSCOPY USED AS A DIAGNOSTIC PROCEDURE?
Colposcopy is the quickest and simplest way to determine why a Pap smear is abnormal. It does not require hospitalization, anaesthesia, freezing or pain pills.
WHAT DOES THE COLPOSCOPIC EXAMINATION INVOLVE?
The colposcopic examination is conducted in essentially the same way as the pelvic examination accompanying a Pap test. With this technique, the doctor tries to identify the area on the cervix from where the abnormality arose. During the examination, the doctor may do a biopsy- remove a small piece of tissue about the size of a match-and, if so, will insert a tampon as you may have some spotting. The tampon can be removed later than same day. You will experience minimal discomfort during this procedure, which will take only 5-10 minutes.
WHY DOESN’T MY FAMILY DOCTOR OR GYNAECOLOGIST DO THE EXAMINATION?
The equipment is expensive and proper use and interpretation of findings requires additional training and expertise.
Note: BC Cancer Agency handout, Vancouver Cancer Centre, Division of Gynecologic Oncology