Q:

What additional testing is needed after an abnormal cervical cancer screening test result?

A:

Quick Answer

Following an abnormal cervical cancer screening test, most doctors recommend a colposcopy exam with a biopsy or an endocervical scraping, according to the American Cancer Society. These tests determine if cancerous or precancerous cells are present.

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Full Answer

A colposcopy is a type of vaginal exam that looks at the cervix and usually involves the collection of a cervical biopsy, notes the American Cancer Society. During a colposcopy, the doctor uses a colposcope, which is an instrument that works much like binoculars, to allow the doctor to see the cervix in great detail. When the doctor observes suspicious cells on the cervix, he uses biopsy forceps to remove a section of abnormal tissue from the cervix’s surface. The procedure may cause brief discomfort and mild cramping, and bleeding may occur following the procedure. The doctor sends the collected sample to a lab for analysis.

When the colposcopy exam is unable to deliver clear results, an endocervical curettage allows the doctor to check for cancer, notes the American Cancer Society. Using a curette, the doctor scrapes the endocervical canal, which is a passage between the inner part of the uterus and the outer part of the cervix, to obtain a sample for laboratory analysis. If the curettage procedure is necessary, the doctor usually performs the it directly following the colposcopy and biopsy .

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