Cervical Biopsy

Overview & Description

A cervical biopsy involves the removal of a small sample of tissue from thecervix. The cervix is the lowest part of the uterus and contains the openingfrom the uterus to the vagina. The tissue sample is called a biopsy.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

A cervical biopsy is done to detect cancer of the cervix or precancerous changes. Acervical biopsy is usually done after a woman has abnormal results from aPapsmear that is done as part of a pelvic examination. A Pap smear is a test in which the provideruses a small spatula and a brush to gently scrape cells from the woman’scervix. These cells are sent to a lab for testing. The Pap smear may showearly, abnormal, cancer-like changes in the cervix cells.

A colposcopy is anexamination of the surface of the cervix through a magnifying scope. A womanshould have a colposcopy, as well as a cervical biopsy, if one of the following conditions applies:

  • She has 2 consecutive abnormal Papsmears
  • .

  • She has a suspicious-looking lesion on the cervix or vagina, with orwithout an abnormal Pap smear
  • .

  • Her Pap smear suggests the presence of human papilloma virusor HPV. This virus can cause genital warts and is linked to thedevelopment of cervicalcancer.
  • She has extensive genital warts on her vulva, which are the lips at theopening of the vagina
  • .

  • She was exposed to DES, or diethylstilbestrol, in her mother’s uterus. Diethylstilbestrol, a potent medication to prevent miscarriages,has been associated with abnormal changes in the cervix of women exposed asfetuses.
  • She has had one abnormal Pap smear that suggested moderately abnormaltissue growth or more severely abnormal cells
  • .

    If necessary, a healthcare provider may safely perform a cervical biopsy onpregnant women. Usually,providers wait to take a cervical biopsy until after the delivery.

    How is the procedure performed?

    A cervical biopsy is done with the woman lying on her back with her feet instirrups. The healthcare provider places a speculum inside the woman’s vagina.This instrument helps enlarge the opening of the vagina, which allows theprovider to see the cervix and vaginal interior.

    The healthcare provider uses a colposcope to magnify and examine the cervix and vagina. To makecells more visible under the colposcope, the provider puts a mild solution ofvinegar on the area. Sometimes the healthcare provider also uses a solution ofweak iodine.

    Then, the healthcare provider takes small bits of tissue, or a biopsy, fromsuspicious areas. The technique is called cervical punch biopsy. The woman mayfeel a brief pinch or cramp. The healthcare provider records the location ofthe abnormal areas and sends the tissue sample or samples to be viewed under amicroscope.

    Preparation & Expectations

    What happens right after the procedure?

    Cramping usually passes within minutes of the cervical biopsy. If she sits uptoo quickly, a woman may feel lightheaded. Lying down for a few minutes afterthe procedure prevents this. Any further cramping may be treated with anover-the-counter painmedication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

    The biopsy samples are sent to the laboratory to beexamined under the microscope by the pathologist. The healthcare providerdiscusses the pathologist’s findings with the woman. Abnormalities can rangefrom mild cervical dysplasia, or slightly abnormal changes inthe cells examined, to cancer of the cervix. Treatments andfollow-up depend upon the exact diagnosis.

    Home Care and Complications

    What happens later at home?

    For 1 to 2 days after a cervical biopsy, a woman may have a small amount ofpinkish discharge from the vagina. For 2 to 3 days afterwards, she shouldavoid sexual intercourse, douches, and tampons.

    What are the potential complications after the procedure?

    A woman may experience minor bleeding after a cervical biopsy. Other potentialcomplications include heavier vaginal bleeding, infection, or allergic reaction to the iodine usedin the procedure. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to thehealthcare provider.

    Article type: xmedgeneral