A colposcopy enables a doctor to view the inside of the cervix.
Would cancer be visible with this procedure?
That’s what many women want to know who are scheduled for a colposcopy.
This can make lying there, legs in stirrups, very unnerving, because the patient will know that the doctor is literally looking inside her cervix.
A colposcope is a big electric microscope that, with its bright light, allows the physician to literally take a look inside the patient’s cervix.
The internal cervical tissue is magnified for easier viewing, to enable the doctor to visually detect any suspicious looking areas.
Right then and there, the doctor can extract a tissue sample to be sent to a lab for a biopsy.
Reasons for a Colposcopy
• To obtain better information as to why the patient’s Pap smear came back abnormal.
• The patient has bled after intercourse.
• An abnormal growth is visible on the vulva, vagina or cervix.
“Colposcopy can be very suggestive of cervical cancer — but the final diagnosis comes from the pathologist after a biopsy,” says Dr. Kate Killoran, OBGYN and medical advisor at Your Doctors Online, an online doctor chat site.
Thus, a doctor may be able to see, through the magnifying lens of the instrument, a cancerous mass.
The doctor may even firmly believe that the suspicious looking growth is, indeed, cervical cancer.
The practitioner may also suspect the possibility of dysplasia or precancer.
But an official diagnosis cannot be made until the pathologist (ideally a gynecological pathologist rather than a general one) writes up the report stating that the tissue sample shows malignant cells.
So, to answer the question, “Can a colposcopy show cervical cancer?” the answer is yes – in that what the doctor thinks could be cancer can be visible through the colposcope.
But a colposcopy does NOT diagnose any cancer. Only the pathologist can determine the exact nature of the tissue sample.
Dr. Killoran has a private practice and is also a health coach at drkatemd.com. Your Doctors Online offers a free 7 day trial: Ask a doctor questions and get answers in minutes from anywhere 24/7. Learn more here.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.