One of the most frightening times in a woman’s life is when the gynecologist calls and says her Pap smear results are abnormal. Although you might think an abnormal Pap smear means you have cervical cancer, the fact is that the majority of abnormal Pap smears are not caused by cervical cancer. The more likely cause of abnormal Pap smear results is inflammation or a vaginal infection.
Because the Pap smear is a screening tool and not a diagnostic tool, we may want to take a closer look at your cervix to determine the cause of your abnormal Pap smear results. We will perform an examination called a colposcopy. We may order this procedure if you have Pap smear results which:
- indicate dysplasia or cancer
- show evidence of HPV
- show atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS) or repeated (ASCUS)
We may also order a colposcopy because your cervix appears abnormal during your pelvic exam and Pap smear, or if you have a history of prenatal DES exposure.
A colposcopy is a simple and painless procedure performed in our office that takes 10 to 15 minutes. You are positioned on the examination table like you are for a Pap smear, and an acetic acid (such as common table vinegar) is placed on the cervix. This causes the cervical cells to fill with water so light will not pass through them.
We will use a colposcope to view your cervix. A colposcope is a large, electric microscope that is positioned approximately 30 cm from the vagina. A bright light on the end of the colposcope lets us clearly see the cervix.
During the colposcopy, we focus on the areas of the cervix where light does not pass through. Abnormal cervical changes are seen as white areas — the whiter the area, the worse the cervical dysplasia. Abnormal vascular (blood vessel) changes are also apparent through the colposcope. Typically, the worse that the vascular changes are, the worse the dysplasia.
If you have been told you need a colposcopy, call us. Our staff is well-trained and experienced in colposcopies, and we’re here to help.