North County Women's Specialists
OB-GYNs located in Escondido, CA & San Marcos, CA
Over a three-year time frame, about 69% of women get a Pap smear. That number doesn’t sound bad until you realize it means that almost one-third of all women may not know they have cervical cancer. The doctors at North County Women’s Specialists encourage all women to schedule routine Pap tests. When your Pap smear comes back with abnormal results, you can get quick treatment with an in-office colposcopy. If you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment, use online booking or call our office in Escondido or San Marcos, California.
Colposcopy Q & A
What is a colposcopy, and when do I need one?
A colposcopy is a procedure that gives your doctor a magnified view of your cervix. The colposcope is placed outside your vagina, then your doctor looks through a device similar to binoculars to examine your cervix and tissues inside your vagina.
Your doctor may perform a colposcopy to diagnose cervical inflammation, polyps, or genital warts on the cervix. However, it’s most often done when you have an abnormal Pap smear.
What is an abnormal Pap smear?
A Pap smear screens for cervical cancer. During a Pap smear, your doctor at North County Women’s Specialists removes a small amount of tissue from your cervix and sends it to a lab for evaluation.
The experts at the lab grade the cells found in the sample. If all the cells are normal, you have a negative Pap smear.
When you have a positive Pap smear, it means the sample revealed cervical dysplasia or abnormal cervical cells.
The lab reports varying degrees of cervical dysplasia, such as:
- Cellular changes indicating a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
- Mildly abnormal cells likely due to HPV
- Moderate-to-severe precancerous or cancerous changes
When an abnormal Pap shows mild changes, your doctor may recommend waiting a few months then taking another Pap smear. Although HPV causes cervical cancer, in most cases, HPV infections clear away without causing any problems.
When your original Pap smear reveals moderate to severe changes, or a follow-up Pap smear is still abnormal, your doctor performs a colposcopy.
What happens during a colposcopy?
After the colposcope is placed outside your vagina, your doctor swabs a liquid over your cervix that makes it easier to see abnormal tissues.
If abnormal tissues or growths are visible during the exam, your doctor removes them and sends a biopsy to the lab to determine whether it’s cancerous.
Your doctor uses one of the following procedures to remove areas of visible cervical dysplasia:
- Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP): a thin wire loop carrying a mild electrical current removes thin layers of tissue
- Conization or cone biopsy: removes a larger area of tissue to eliminate all abnormal cells
- Ablative treatments: lasers use heat to destroy abnormal cells or cryotherapy freezes them
Your doctor may also remove cells from inside the cervical canal to send for a biopsy.
If you’re due for a Pap test or your annual well-woman exam, call North County Women’s Specialists or book an appointment online.
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