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Colposcopy and Cervical Biopsy

How It Is Done continued...

If areas of abnormal tissue are found on the cervix, your doctor will take a small sample (cervical biopsy) of the tissue. Usually several samples are taken. The samples are looked at under a microscope for changes in the cells that may mean cancer may be present or is likely to develop. If bleeding occurs, a special liquid (Monsel's) or silver nitrate swab may be used on the biopsy area to stop the bleeding.

If a sample of tissue is needed from inside the opening of the cervix (the endocervical canal), a test called endocervical curettage (ECC) will be done. Since the endocervical canal cannot be seen by the colposcope, a small sharp-edged tool called a curette is gently put into the endocervical canal to take a sample. ECC takes less than a minute to do and may cause mild cramping. An ECC is not done during pregnancy.

Colposcopy and a cervical biopsy usually take about 15 minutes.

How It Feels

You may feel some discomfort when the vaginal speculum is inserted. You may feel a pinch and have some cramping if a biopsy sample is taken.

Risks

In rare cases, a cervical biopsy can cause an infection or bleeding. Bleeding can usually be stopped by using a special liquid or swab on the area.

After the test

If you have a biopsy, you may feel some soreness in your vagina for a day or two. Some vaginal bleeding or discharge is normal for up to a week after a biopsy. The discharge may be dark-colored if Monsel's solution was used. You can use a sanitary pad for the bleeding. Do not douche, have sex, or use tampons for one week, to allow time for your cervix to heal. Do not exercise for 1 day after your colposcopy.

Follow any instructions your doctor gave you. Call your doctor if you have:

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding (more than a normal menstrual period).
  • A fever.
  • Belly pain.
  • Bad-smelling vaginal discharge.

Results

Colposcopy is a way for your doctor to use a special magnifying device to look at your vulva, vagina camera.gif, and cervix.

Your doctor will talk to you about what he or she sees at the time of the colposcopy. Lab results from a biopsy may take several days or more.

Colposcopy and cervical biopsy
Normal:

The vinegar or iodine does not show any areas of abnormal tissue. The vagina and cervix look normal.

A biopsy sample does not show any abnormal cells.

Abnormal:

The vinegar or iodine shows areas of abnormal tissue. Sores or other problems, such as genital warts or an infection, are found in or around the vagina or cervix.

A biopsy sample shows abnormal cells. This may mean cervical cancer is present or likely to develop.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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