What is a colposcopy?, What is the colposcopy used for?, When is a colposcopy recommended?, How is the colposcopy performed?, Are the colposcopy and biopsies painful?

What is a colposcopy?

A colposcopy is an examination of the skin and mucous membranes of the lower genital tract (cervix, vagina and vulva) through a colposcope. As seen on the image of the previous page, the woman lies on the examination chair, exactly like she does during a pelvic examination. Through a colposcope, your doctor directly examines your cervix, vagina, and vulva under magnification.

The perianal area and the anal canal are also examined with the help of a colposcope. This examination is called a high-resolution anoscopy, which is different than a simple anoscopy.

What is the colposcopy used for?

Colposcopes are very useful in identifying precancerous lesions and cancer.

A colposcopy helps us locate suspect areas − which are not visible to a naked eye examination − and if deemed necessary, take biopsies (small tissue samples).

It is also useful for defining transformation zones, which are the most frequent areas where normal cells are transformed into cancer cells in the cervix, and to determine our next steps (diagnostic or surgical).

The role of a colposcopy is to correctly guide the doctor in deciding which area to take the biopsies from or how to plan the removal of a wider area, with the main aim of not missing invasive cancer.

When is a colposcopy recommended?

A colposcopy is recommended in the following cases:

  • If suspect cells are found by a Pap test.
  • If the HPV test is positive (this means that there is an infection from oncogenic types of HPV).
  • When the doctor sees something suspicious during a simple examination.
  • Before several procedures in the lower genital tract to assess the extent of the lesions.

How is a colposcopy performed?

The woman lies in the gynecological examination position. A colposcope is placed at a small distance (10-15 cm) from her body. The doctor, using the strong light and magnification provided by the colposcope, examines in detail the skin and mucous membranes.

A solution of diluted acetic acid (similar to white vinegar) is used for the colposcopy. By applying this solution on the skin and mucous membranes, lesions that were not visible up to then are revealed.

It is possible, if the doctor finds it necessary, to use an iodine solution (called lugol).

Are the colposcopy and biopsies painful?

The acetic acid solution used during the colposcopy causes a mild burning sensation, which quickly subsides.

Special instruments (biopsy forceps) are used for taking biopsies from the cervix, which are not painful. Patients feel only a slight discomfort, and no painkillers are necessary.