A pap smear is a simple test which women, aged between 18-70, should have every two years to check for changes to the cells in the cervix. Checking for these changes is important as abnormal cells can lead to cervical cancer if they are not treated. Testing for HPV virus (Human papillomavirus) may also be used in conjunction with the Pap smear.
An abnormal Pap smear result means that some cells were found that do not look normal. It very rarely means you have cancer. Depending on the grade of the abnormality found, further tests may be required to monitor the cells or diagnose the cause.
As part of your examination Dr Farjo may perform additional testing called a colposcopy.
Not all the women with abnormal Pap smear will need treatment. Colposcopy with or without biopsy can help to determine if and when treatment is needed. It is also required for follow up after treatment for abnormal pap smears.
What is a Colposcopy?
A colposcopy is a close examination and visualization of a woman’s cervix using magnification.
What Happens During a Colposcopy?
Getting a colposcopy is similar to having a Pap smear but being a more detail examination takes a little longer (about 15 minutes):
- A speculum is inserted into the vagina
- The gynaecologist places the colposcope at the entrance of the vagina and uses it to examine the cervix
- A weak vinegar solution is applied to “paint” the cervix to help with the identification of healthy and abnormal cells
- A brown (iodine) solution may also be used to “paint” the cervix, this is to permit viewing the cervix under a different light. If you are allergic to iodine you should let Dr Farjo know before the procedure.
If, during the examination, Dr Farjo notices some abnormal cells she may perform a biopsy (remove some tissue for further testing in the laboratory). The biopsy may only cause mild discomfort or cramping and it does not require anaesthesia.
If you have a biopsy, Dr Farjo may apply a yellow brown solution to your cervix. This acts as a liquid bandage.
What Happens After a Colposcopy?
Dos and Don’ts After the Examination
From a practical perspective:
- You may experience some discomfort however this should be temporary
- You may have some bloodstained discharge or brown or black discharge if liquid bandage is used. This should resolve in a few days.
- You will be able to return to work or study after having a colposcopy.
To prevent infections and reduce the risk of bleeding you should
- Avoid heavy physical exercise for at least 24 hours
- Avoid swimming, spas or baths for 3 days and
- Avoid penetrative sex for 3 days. If you have spotting, it is best to wait until the spotting has stopped before you resume sexual intercourse.
Test Results and Follow Up
You will need a follow up appointment with Dr Farjo to discuss the results. During the consultation, Dr Farjo will review your test results with you and discuss what further examinations or treatment might be necessary – depending upon the nature of the abnormality detected.