Colposcopy: A Closer Look

OBGYNE0901If your most recent Pap test has shown anything but normal results, there’s a chance your OBGYN may recommend a colposcopy exam. And while it’s a specialized gynecology examination procedure that many patients might not be familiar with, it’s fairly straightforward and in and of itself should be no cause for alarm.

If you OBGYN recommends a colposcopy, it’s because he or she wants to be certain of how to properly characterize any abnormalities detected in the pelvic exam or Pap test. A colposcopy is useful in diagnosing any number of issues, ranging from genital warts and cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix) to cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancers — as well as any precancerous tissue changes in those areas. It’s a very low-risk procedure that usually is completed in less than 10 to 20 minutes.

The instrument used — known as a colposcope — allows the doctor to examine tissue in far greater detail than a standard pelvic exam; in the event suspicious tissue is encountered, your OBGYN is able to take a tissue sample (for a biopsy, e.g. laboratory testing) without delay, speeding a confirmation of the doctor’s initial diagnosis.

As a visual inspection tool, colposcopy exam results are often ready as soon as the procedure is completed; after closely examining your cervix, vulva and vagina for signs of problems, a doctor who has found nothing of note will be able to tell you as much, and send you on your way. If however something unexpected was discovered and a tissue sample taken, that sample usually must be sent to a specialized laboratory for further inspection, and the results of that inspection may not be known immediately. In that even, your gynecology office will likely schedule a follow-up appointment to explain and discuss the results of lab tests with you.

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