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What Is a Colposcopy?

A colposcopy is a fast and straightforward medical exam used to investigate the cells of your cervix, vulva, and vagina. If you’ve received an atypical Pap Smear test result, it could indicate the presence of abnormal cells. We use this test to view and examine the cells to identify any changes.

During the exam, we use an instrument called a colposcope to emit light on and magnify the cervix, vaginal wall, and other tissues. A colposcope is a lensed instrument that allows us to view vaginal and cervical tissues most clearly.

Why Would I Need a Colposcopy?

Usually, we only recommend a colposcopy when we have detected abnormalities in your Pap smear or cervical screening tests. Anytime there are changes in cells, it’s essential to investigate the cause.

The good news is that often cell changes are harmless and no cause for great concern. However, it’s vital to know this for sure before dismissing the change. Early detection is the best way to prevent more severe health problems.
Reasons to Get this Exam

We may also recommend this screening if you have any unexplained vaginal bleeding or have reason to believe you may have genital warts or other sexually transmitted infections. It’s also a tool to investigate the cause of any pain or tenderness in lower abdominal regions.

Please understand that we may recommend this screening even if you have normal Pap smear results. If your doctor suspects anything unusual about your feminine health, it’s vital to follow through with the testing. Only this exam can ensure your wellness.

Detecting Cervical Cancer

Most women who receive an abnormal Pap test do not have cervical cancer. Still, this test is pivotal in detecting cervical cancer just in case you do. During your exam, your doctor has access to the abnormal cells and can immediately take a biopsy for more testing or expedited treatment.

What Can this Test Diagnose?

The colposcope is the premier tool for a variety of cervical, vaginal, and vulvar conditions, including:

- Cancer
- Cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix)
- Dysplasia (precancerous cell changes)
- Genital warts

What Happens During a Colposcopy?

Your exam takes place in our comfortable, state-of-the-art Trinity, Florida office. Most appointments take 30 minutes or fewer. The test itself will feel familiar to you because it starts much like a Pap smear.

You lie on your back on the table with your feet up. Your doctor first inserts a speculum to hold the vaginal walls open. Once the cervix is in view, your doctor places the colposcope near your vulva and turns on the bright light. Looking through the lens of the colposcope, your doctor can view the cells of your cervix, vagina, and vulva up close. To gather the most accurate information, we may use a series of special tests to understand the cells. The individual tests are:
Acetic Acid Wash

To get a better view of cells through the colposcope, we may wash the cervix with a diluted acetic acid to remove fluids or mucus from the target region. This solution adheres to any abnormalities and stains them white. Acetic acid wash allows us to gain a better understanding of any cell changes.
Color Filtering

The colposcope also works with a series of color filters that allow us to examine other elements of the body, like blood vessels. Color filters work with the acetic acid wash to distinguish abnormalities or unique growth patterns.
Tissue Biopsy

We may take a cell biopsy of abnormal areas for further testing in a laboratory. During a biopsy, we remove a small tissue sample using specialized tools from the area or areas with atypical cells. We may perform a biopsy on the cervix or vaginal walls.

Will I Need a Biopsy?

Many women who get this test don’t need a biopsy. You will only need a biopsy if your doctor finds abnormal cells that require further investigation. If you don’t need a biopsy, you are free to go after your appointment and asked to return for a follow-up visit in six to twelve months.

If your doctor deems a biopsy necessary, she’ll perform it immediately to ensure that you receive the most prompt treatment. She may collect samples from one or more areas, depending on your needs. After collection, we send your tissue samples to a laboratory to get the most accurate information about the changes.
Biopsy Results

You can expect to receive your biopsy results within about four to eight weeks. We notify you of your results as soon as they become available to us. If your results show that further treatment is necessary, we’ll invite you to our offices to discuss your treatment options.

We understand playing the waiting game after your biopsy can feel stressful. Please know that we are here for you during this time. Please contact us with questions or concerns you may have.

What Happens After My Appointment?

What happens after your appointment depends on if you had a biopsy during your appointment. If your doctor didn’t take a biopsy, you will probably feel normal and do not have any restrictions after your appointment. You are free to resume regular activity.

If you have received a biopsy, you may experience some light bleeding or discharge for a few days. Please do not insert anything into your vagina for at least one week after the biopsy. Do not use tampons, douches, or have vaginal intercourse. Follow all instructions provided by your doctor.

When Can I Expect Results?

The primary benefit of using this test is that it often offers immediate results. Your doctor gets a clear view of your cells and tissues to determine their condition. Usually, your doctor can tell you if any abnormal cells were detected.

You will know at your appointment if your doctor has found genital warts or other infections. If you receive a biopsy, your results take a few weeks to arrive. We contact you with the results as soon as we’ve received them from the testing laboratory.

Can My Results Differ From a Pap Smear Test Result?

Your Pap smear test is a preliminary test that gives a general idea of cell health, but it can’t diagnose the cause of cell changes. A colposcopy allows us to get to the root of any cell abnormalities you’re experiencing, and it’s much more thorough. Sometimes women have different results between the tests. Remember that this test, with or without a biopsy, is the more accurate of the two testing methods.

What Causes Cell Abnormalities?


HPV (human papillomavirus) is the leading cause of cell changes in the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, and other regions. HPV is a virus that usually enters the body from close skin-to-skin contact. HPV is considered a sexually transmitted infection, but you don’t have to have sex to get the virus.

There are over 100 known strains of HPV, and not all of them lead to health problems. Of the hundreds of strains, there are only 14 that can lead to women’s health issues. Some HPV types lead to genital warts, and others promote precancerous cell changes, particularly in the cervix.

An abnormal Pap smear result could be the first sign you have of any changes in your body. Therefore, it’s crucial to see your doctor for check-ups regularly.

Sometimes an infection can cause cells to change. Bacteria and yeast are two of the most common culprits for an infection that leads to shifting cells. Infection-related changes are easily treatable after diagnosis.

Aging and menopause can lead to cell changes, as well. You don’t have to have an infection or HPV to receive an abnormal Pap test result.

How Do I Prepare?

We’ll provide you with specific instructions for preparing for your exam, but there are some general guidelines to follow:

- Schedule your appointment when you won’t be menstruating
- Do not use tampons or have sex for two days before your appointment
- Avoid using any vaginal creams or medications for two days before your visit
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever about one hour before your appointment

How to Manage Anxiety Before Your Appointment

If you are like many women, you might feel anxious before your exam. Please know that the test is nothing to fear. The more you learn about the process and what to expect, the better.

List Your Questions

We recommend that you write out questions you have to discuss with your doctor before the procedure. Asking questions and expressing concerns often helps women feel more comfortable about the process.
Seek Relaxation Techniques

Find healthy ways to decompress. Feeling stressed can impact concentration and sleep cycles, which can lead to more stress. Look for activities that bring your relief, relaxation, and joy. Whether you take up a new exercise routine, start meditating, or spend time with loved ones, a focused relaxation routine can mitigate your anxiety about the exam.

Know You Are in Good Hands

Our women-led and operated expert staff understands that your nerves may be reeling from an abnormal Pap result. We do everything we can to make your experience comfortable and pleasant. We welcome open communication before, during, and after your exam. Please let us know if we can better your experience.

Can I Get the Exam While Pregnant?

If you’ve just discovered that you are pregnant and have a referral for a colposcopy, talk to your doctor for personalized instructions. This exam doesn’t jeopardize your pregnancy, but your doctor must know.

Will I Need a Follow-Up Appointment?

If your results don’t show any cell changes, you won’t need to come in for another appointment until you’re due for another cervical screening. If you have cell changes, your doctor provides you specific instructions for follow-up visits for monitoring or treatment. Many times cells self-correct, and you won’t need treatment.

Other times, treatment is necessary. Depending on your treatment, you could have one or more follow-up visits. We ask anyone who has received treatment to schedule a follow-up for six months later to monitor the progress.

Schedule an Exam at Orange Blossom Women’s Group

Although a colposcopy can seem like a scary thing, it’s one of the most empowering exams you can do to understand your body and take care of your health. This fast, safe, and effective treatment is the first-line defense against a variety of women’s health concerns. Contact us today at Orange Blossom Women’s Group in Trinity, FL and Land O' Lakes, to schedule your exam. We’ll help you through your journey to wellness.

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