Your routine pap smear is done to screen for cervical abnormalities by gently scraping cells from your cervix. In cases where results from the pap smear are abnormal for some reason, Dr. Hartell may want to do further diagnostic tests to find the cause.

How are abnormal pap smears investigated?
Abnormal pap smears are usually further investigated using a colposcopy in which the cervix, vagina and vulva are magnified to examine the abnormal cells. A colposcopy is done to get a closer look at the cervix and to take samples for further testing. Abnormal cells may be caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), causing precancerous changes of the cells, in which case your gynaecologist would need to screen for cervical cancer.

What can I expect during the colposcopy?
A colposcopy is done in Dr. Hartell's rooms in the same way as a pap smear. Your gynaecologist will place a speculum to open the vagina while the colposcope, the special magnifying instrument, is used to examine all aspects of the vagina, vulva and cervix. Your gynaecologist may find abnormal cells and take a small tissue sample (biopsy) for testing. A biopsy taken from the cervix may cause slight discomfort but should not be painful. A vaginal biopsy may cause pain, but Dr. Hartell will administer a local anaesthetic to numb the area before doing a biopsy. After a biopsy has been done, a chemical solution will be applied to limit the bleeding.

What can I expect after a colposcopy?
If a biopsy was done, you might have some spotting or light bleeding for a day or two after the procedure, but this should not limit your activity. Your gynaecologist will then call you to discuss the test results in a few days.