Abnormal Pap Smears
What is a Colposcopy?
Coloposcopy is a diagnostic tool to determine the cause of abnormalities found in Pap smears. A Colposcopy is a visual examination of the cervix; it's a relatively simple and painless procedure, usually performed in your physician's office and lasting approximately 10- 15 minutes.
A Colposcopy seems much like a Pap smear; however, there a few important differences. You are positioned on the examination table as in a Pap smear but, an acetic acid (such as, common table vinegar) is placed on the cervix, causing the cervical cells to fill with water so light will not pass through them.
Your physician views your cervix through a colposcope. A colposcope is a large, electric microscope and is positioned approximately 30cm from the vagina.
A bright light on the end of the colposcope makes it possible for your physician to view your cervix.
Your physician focuses on the areas where no light passes through; he sees any abnormal cervical changes as white areas, the whiter the area, the worse the dysplasia. He also sees, abnormal blood vessel changes through the colposcope; abnormal vascular changes occur in dysplasia and the worse the vascular changes are the worse the dysplasia is.
If your physician is able to view the entire abnormal area through the Colposcope, a tissue sample or biopsy is taken from the whitest abnormal areas and sent to the lab for evaluation.
Cryosurgery or a freezing of the abnormal cells is usually performed next, making this a diagnostic/ treatment procedure in one. If your physician, is unable to view the entire abnormal area, as when the abnormal area extends inside the cervix, another procedure such as a Cone biopsy or LEEP procedure is performed.
Can be perfomed in your physician's office or as an out-patient procedure; a triangle of cervical tissue is removed, including the abnormal cells. May have bleeding and watery discharge following treatment. Additional Pap Smears as recommended.
Similar to Cone Biopsy; difference is in the instrument used, a loop- shaped instrument removes the abnormal area. Bleeding and discharge may occur. Follow your physician's recommendations for future Pap Smears.
Abnormal Pap Smears during pregnancy...
It is perfectly safe to have a Pap smear during pregnancy; if your Pap is abnormal, your physician may safely perform Colposcopy. Treatment procedures will usually be safely delayed until after your baby is born. Your doctor will perform additional Pap smears during your pregnancy, if he feels it necessary. Many times the birth of your baby will wash away any abnormal cervical cells. There is no risk to your baby in having an abnormal Pap smear.
Tips For Accurate Pap Smear Results:
- Two weeks after the first day of your last menstrual cycle is the ideal time for accurrate Pap Smear results to be obtained.
- Don't use any vaginal creams, medications, or douche for at least 72 hours prior to your appointment.
- Sexual intercourse within 24 hours before your appointment can negatively affect your results.
- Be sure your physician uses an accredited laboratory which hires only certified technicians and pathologists.
What can you do?
The single most important thing you can do, to prevent cancer is maintain your gynecological examinations according to the schedule determined best for you by your physician. Follow your physician's treatment recommendations and if you have any questions, ask your physician to explain.
Even if you've had a hysterectomy or no longer menstruate due to menopause, it's important to remember to keep up your schedule of yearly physical examinations.