Vaginal endoscopy

A vaginal endoscopy or colposcopy is the most important examination of the vagina. With the help of the camera and a microscope, changes in the mucous membrane of the vagina are recognised on the cervix. Mucous membrane cells are taken by means of a cervical smear (pap smear), and examined under a microscope. The goal is to recognise the early stages of cancer.

A vaginal endoscopy is a medical check-up and serves as early diagnosis of vaginal cancer or cancer of the cervix. Inflammatory changes in the mucous membranes in the vagina or the cervix can develop into cancer over time. Such changes are recognised early with a vaginal endoscopy and a cervical smear.

What preparations are carried out before the procedure?

A vaginal endoscopy can be performed without any special preparation. The examination is painless and does not require local anaesthetic.

How is the examination carried out?

A vaginal endoscopy is carried out on a gynaecological chair. Firstly, a separating funnel (speculum) is inserted into the vagina to open and stretch it. Then, the interior of the vagina, the portio and the cervix are viewed through the colposcope. The mucous membranes are dabbed with vinegar to make it easier to recognise suspect cell changes under the microscope. This procedure is known as an acetic acid test and an iodine test. Changed cells colour themselves under the vinegar probe and iodine probe differently than healthy cells do, and can thus be better recognised. A cervical smear or if necessary a biopsy of the suspicious areas is taken and examined in the laboratory. The entire examination takes 15 to 30 minutes.

What is the success rate of this examination?

The examination is excellent for identifying changes in the mucous membranes and in the process recognising the preliminary stages of cancer.

What are the possible complications and risks of this examination?

A vascular endoscopy and a cervical smear are completely risk-free. Minor haemorrhaging can sometimes occur after a biopsy. The treatment is generally painless. Some women find it mildly uncomfortable when their vagina is stretched with the speculum.

What happens after the examination?

No special follow-up treatment is required. If cell changes are determined, these must be checked at regular intervals. Not every cell change leads to cancer. Such changes are often temporary infections which disappear again. Check-ups allow physicians to determine whether the changes are signs of the preliminary stages of cancer or a temporary inflammatory reaction.

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