Cervical Cancer: Diagnosis

If cervical dysplasia is suspected because of abnormal screening tests or worrisome symptoms, your health care provider will perform a thorough evaluation of your cervix with a colposcopy. A colposcopy examination is simply looking at your cervix with an electric magnifying instrument to look for abnormal cells. Similar to a pelvic exam, the first step is for you to lie down on an examination table and put your feet in stirrups. Next, an instrument called a speculum is inserted into your vagina to hold your vaginal walls open so your healthcare provider can view the inside of the vaginal walls and the cervix. Next, special solutions will be applied to the cervix to accentuate any abnormal changes. Then, your healthcare provider will look at your cervix through the colposcope, which shines a light on and magnifies your cervix. If your health care provider sees any abnormal changes, then he or she will take a biopsy, or a small sample, of the abnormal area. They may also take a more deeper and thorough scraping of the inside of the cervical canal. This is called an endocervical curettage, or ECC.

Depending on the results of the colposcopy, biopsy, or ECC, your healthcare provider will recommend either treatment or close follow-up. If a biopsy or ECC confirms cancer, you should be seen immediately by a gynecologic oncologist. A gynecologic oncologist is a women’s cancer specialist. They may recommend further tests to see if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.