What Is a Cervical Biopsy?

What Every Woman Should Know About Cervical Biopsies

Gynecologist examining patient
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A cervical biopsy is a diagnostic procedure in which small amounts of abnormal tissue are removed from your cervix for further testing. Cervical biopsies tend to follow abnormal pap smear results, which generally prompt your doctor to take a better look at what's going on with the cells of your cervix.

A cervical biopsy is helpful in the detection of cancer and other conditions in their earliest stages, and can significantly improve the success rate of treatment.

How a Cervical Biopsy Is Performed

You will lie on the examination table, just as you would for a pelvic exam, in your doctor’s office. You may also be referred to another health care provider or facility to have the procedure done. Your doctor will insert a speculum into your vagina to hold apart the vaginal walls so he or doctor can see your cervix.

Your cervix and vagina will be swabbed with either a vinegar or iodine solution to remove the mucus and highlight the areas that are abnormal. You may feel a slight burning sensation as this is done.

A colposcope, which is a microscope with magnification, will be placed at the outside opening of your vagina. The colposcope magnifies the cervix for a closer inspection of the abnormal area.

Your doctor may take photographs of the area. If the area looks abnormal, your doctor will remove one or more samples of tissue using biopsy forceps, for further examination.

The Different Types of Cervical Biopsies

There are several types of cervical biopsies depending on the type and amount of tissue your doctor wants to test. These types of cervical biopsies include:

Punch Biopsy

A punch biopsy uses a circular blade, almost like a paper hole punch, to remove tissue samples from different areas of the cervix.

Cone Biopsy

A cone biopsy uses either a laser or scalpel to remove cone-shaped tissue from the cervix.

Endocervical Curettage

An endocervical curettage uses a narrow instrument, known as a curette, to scrape cells that line the walls of the cervical canal.

How to Prepare for a Cervical Biopsy

It is best to have a cervical biopsy when you are not having your menstrual period. This provides your doctor with a better view of your cervix. In addition to waiting until you are not on your period, at least 24 hours before your cervical biopsy, you should not do any of the following:

  • Douche
  • Use tampons
  • Use vaginal medication
  • Have sexual intercourse

What to Expect After a Cervical Biopsy

Other than a slight pinch when the tissue samples are removed, most cervical biopsies are relatively painless. Some women experience a little bit of cramping post-procedure and you may be offered an over-the-counter NSAID like ibuprofen.

You may experience some pain or discomfort for the next couple of days. Over-the-counter pain medication can be helpful. You may also experience some vaginal bleeding and a dark discharge for a few days. You may need to wear a sanitary napkin, pad, or panty liner until the bleeding stops.

You may have to limit some of your activities in order to allow your body to heal, including:

  • Sexual intercourse
  • Using tampons
  • Douching

Of course, if you have any of the following problems you should contact your doctor right away:

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding
  • Severe lower abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Chills

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