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Diagnostic tests| Colposcopy

 What is a colposcopy? What does it feel like?


 What is a colposcopy? What does it feel like?

 Jax, Massachusetts, USA:: My gynecologist did a colposcopy and biopsies in her office under local anesthetic. It was absolutely painless. As I understand it, she removed tissue from my cervix to try and get a better sample of cells than had been provided by the Pap test. My colposcopy came back normal. My gyn then recommended a cone biopsy which in the end determined carcinoma-in-situ.

 Karen, Alberta, Canada: I've lost count now of the number of colposcopies I have had, but with a history of gynecological problems going back more than thirteen years, it's quite a few! A colposcopy doesn't have to be more uncomfortable than a regular pelvic examination if you make an effort to stay relaxed. Yes, I know... easier said than done! If I feel myself getting tense or uncomfortable, I will often concentrate on my breathing - using the exhalation through pursed lips I learned for childbirth. It didn't help much then, but it works here!

I can be somewhat blasé about them now, but I was pretty nervous the first time I had a colposcopy, not knowing what to expect. It's much like a regular pelvic examination. After undressing from the waist down, I laid on the doctor's exam table and "assumed the position" - bum down to the end of the table with my feet up in stirrups. The doctor inserted and opened the speculum and then swabbed my cervix with an ascetic acid (vinegar) solution to make the abnormal areas easier to see. (They show up as white or pale areas because of how the abnormal cells react to the vinegar solution.) The doctor looks through the colposcope (a viewing instrument that magnifies the cells for better evaluation), which is outside the vaginal opening.

The doctor may take "punch" biopsies of the abnormal area(s): a long instrument is inserted and takes a small sample of cells. This isn't as bad as it sounds - you may feel a small pinch or a bit of cramping. Also, there may be some spotting later - usually they will give you a sanitary pad or panti-liner, just in case.

Having a colposcopy is usually pretty fast - the whole thing takes only about fifteen to thirty minutes. Most of the time, I have been in the waiting room longer than on the exam table, and to tell you the truth, I always find the time in the waiting room more nerve- wracking than the exam itself. But, as I said before, keeping the pelvic muscles relaxed is, I think, the key to a comfortable examination - for any pelvic exam.

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