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Cervical Biopsy - What to Expect

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Updated October 10, 2007

What is a Cervical Biopsy?:

A cervical biopsy is a procedure in which small amounts of tissue are removed from the cervix for further examination. The biopsy is performed during a colposcopy, an exam that allows a doctor to examine the cervix more closely. It is performed in a doctor's office or as an outpatient procedure at a hospital.

How is a Cervical Biopsy Performed?:

During the colposcopy exam, the doctor will identify abnormal areas of the cervix using a topical vinegar solution. If abnormal areas are found, the doctor will then perform a cervical biopsy. Small amounts of cervical tissue are then removed with biopsy forceps. Each biopsy takes only seconds to complete and more than one biopsy may be done.

Another type of biopsy called an endocervical curettage (ECC) may be performed. An ECC removes tissue from the endocervical canal, the narrow passage within the cervix that leads to the uterus.

Is a Cervical Biopsy Painful?:

Most women report feeling little or no discomfort during a cervical biopsy. After the biopsy is finished, mild cramping may be experienced. Discomfort and pain may be eased by taking ibuprofen 20 minutes prior to the colposcopy.

During an ECC, mild to moderate discomfort may be experienced. However, it dissipates when the procedure is completed.

How to Prepare for a Cervical Biopsy:

Preparing for a cervical biopsy is just like preparing for a Pap smear. In order to prevent inaccuracies, it is recommended to avoid sexual intercourse, douching, vaginal suppositories/inserts, and tampons 48 hours before the colposcopy.

Cervical Biopsy Results:

Results from a cervical biopsy generally take up to two weeks to return from the lab. Results can return as normal or indicate low-grade dysplasia, high-grade dysplasia, or cancer.

Results may be given over the phone or another office appointment may be set to receive results.

What to Expect After a Cervical Biopsy:

Women who have had a cervical biopsy can expect mild vaginal bleeding and cramping up to a week following the procedure. A brown vaginal discharge may also be experienced. It is recommended that women avoid intercourse, tampons, douching, and vaginal inserts/suppositories for a week or specified time set by a doctor.

Heavy bleeding, fever, and foul smelling or yellow discharge should be reported to a physician.

Sources:

"Cervical Cancer (PDQ®): Treatment." General Information About Cervical Cancer. 19 APR 2006. National Cancer Institute. 04 Oct 2007 <http://www.cancer.gov/cancerinfo/pdq/treatment/cervical/patient/>.

"Pap Test." MAR2006. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 04 Oct 2007 <http://www.4woman.gov/faq/pap.htm#pap15>.

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