Gynecologist, HPV, Colposcopy, Biopsy

Patient

Q: My girlfriend's doctor found a small amount of abnormal tissue in a colposcopy. She took proceeded with a biopsy. What are the odds that she will find cancerous or precancerous cells?

Doctor

A:   Colposcopy is a procedure to closely examine the cervix, vagina and vulva for signs of disease. During colposcopy, the doctor uses a special instrument called a colposcope. Her doctor may have recommend colposcopy if your girlfriend's Pap test has shown abnormal results.As her doctor found an unusual area of cells during colposcopy, a sample of tissue has been collected for laboratory testing (biopsy).

Precancerous changes in a biopsy are called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). Sometimes the term dysplasia is used instead of CIN. CIN is graded on a scale of 1 to 3 based on how much of the cervical tissue looks abnormal when viewed under the microscope.

In CIN1, not much of the tissue looks abnormal, and it is considered the least serious cervical pre-cancer (mild dysplasia).
In CIN2 more of the tissue looks abnormal (moderate dysplasia)
In CIN3 most of the tissue looks abnormal; CIN3 is the most serious pre-cancer (severe dysplasia) and includes carcinoma in situ).
If a cancer is found on a biopsy, it will be identified as either squamous cell carcinoma or adenocarcinoma.

The outcome depends on her colposcopy findings and cytology results. Her gynecologist will provide you with a realistic estimate regarding the likelihood of possible outcomes.

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