What is a LEEP?
LEEP stands for loop electrosurgical excision procedure. In this procedure, your doctor uses a small wire loop to remove abnormal cells from your cervix. The tool is charged with an electrical current. The current heats the loop. This allows it to act as a surgical knife. Keep reading to learn more about why this procedure is done, potential risks, how to prepare, and more.
Who gets this procedure?
Your doctor may recommend the procedure if they notice changes to your cervix during a pelvic exam or if your Pap test results are abnormal. Abnormal cells could be benign growths (polyps), or they could be precancerous. If left untreated, precancerous cells may develop into cervical cancer. Removing the cells will allow your doctor to determine what they are and whether further observation or treatment is needed. Your doctor may also order a LEEP to diagnose and treat genital warts. Genital warts can be an indication of human papillomavirus (HPV), and HPV can increase your risk of developing cervical cancer.
If you have pelvic inflammatory disease or acute cervix inflammation, your doctor may advise against a LEEP. A cone biopsy, which is done surgically, might be a better choice for you. Some doctors will recommend a laser procedure (or cryotherapy) where the area of concern is frozen and subsequently dies and sloughs off.
Are there any risks?
LEEP is safe and effective. There are just a few risks.
These can include:
- Bleeding during or after the procedure (though the tool helps seal the surrounding blood vessels to minimize this risk)
- Scarring on the cervix depending on the amount of tissue the doctor needs to remove
- Difficulty getting pregnant in the year after the procedure
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