A colposcopy is a medical procedure which involves examining lesions on a living tissue surface with a colposcope, a magnifying instrument. For example, a woman whose pap smear has revealed abnormal cells, a precursor of cervical cancer, may have a colposcopy, wherein a doctor uses a lighted colposcope to examine any lesions on her vagina and cervix.

When a pap smear results show abnormalities, a Colposcopy is typically the follow-up procedure to either diagnose or rule out probability of cervical cancer. In order for a colposcopy to be performed, the doctor needs a colposcope (a special camera used to see and/or take pictures of the cervix), a generic speculum, pap-like 'Q'-tips, a vinegar solution, iodine, and a table/couch which supports a woman's legs.

The speculum is inserted into the vagina and acetic acid, usually white household vinegar, is applied to the area of the patient's cervix which appears worrisome to determine the origin and shape of abnormal cells. In the presence of vinegar, dyskaryotic, or abormal, cells become white. Generally, the more dense the white areas, the higher concentration of abnormalities.

After the acetic acid, a water-based iodine solution is applied to the whole of the cervix to identify abnormalities which may not be immediately obvious. Under the influence of iodine, dyskaryotic cells stain yellow while harmless cells stain pure black.

Once the colposcopy is performed, a biopsy may be taken in cases of abundant abnormalities. A biopsy is taken using special forceps, which resemble a threateningly sharp knife with a bird's beak tip, from the area with the highest concentration of abnormalities. The forceps are used to scrape a specific portion of the cervix for a sample of the abnormal cells to be sent to a lab. Pain during a biopsy is usually described as a severe menstrual cramp, which continues for a short period of time post-biopsy.

Also after the biopsy, most doctors reccommend avoiding intercourse, tampons, and douching until at least two weeks after the procedure. Wearing a sanitary napkin is also reccommended to retain the iodine, vinegar, and/or blood discharge that may occurr for 7 to 10 days afterward.

If symptoms of foul odor and/or discharge persist after two weeks, a check-up may be required to rule out infection. If symptoms persist, additional action may be taken to ensure a smooth recovery. Some doctors reccommend the use of triple sulpha antiseptic cream for 7 days after the colposcpy-biopsy procedure in order to reduce the risk of infection. If a patient suspects an infection is present, she should contact her gynecologist and schedule an appointment, as well as avoid the use of any over the counter medications for any symptoms until the doctor can accurately diagnose the origins of said symptoms.

Fertility is generally unaffected by both the colposcopy and biopsy. If additional medical attention is required after the initial biopsy to remove pre-cancerous, cancerous, tumourous, or troublesome cells, the treatment can take three general routes: burning and cauterising the cells, freezing the cells, or scraping the afflicted area.

Extra-special and fabulous thanks to bishopred1 for the formatting help.

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