If the results of your Pap smear indicate abnormalities (dysplasia) of your cervix, the doctor may want to repeat the test at a later date. Some dysplasia is mild and will go away without treatment, but persistent or widespread dysplasia requires treatment, as it may lead to the development of cervical cancer. A loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) is one way of both diagnosing and treating cervical abnormalities at the same time.
During LEEP, a lighted magnifying microscope called a colposcope is used to visualize the cervix. The doctor uses an instrument with a thin, electrified wire loop. As this loop removes the abnormal tissue, it also cauterizes the blood vessels to control bleeding. The tissue can then be examined by a pathologist, who will look for cancerous cells. The removal of precancerous or early-stage cancer cells during LEEP may be the only treatment required.
LEEP can be performed in the doctor’s office or in a surgical clinic. Local anesthesia will be administered to the cervix and the procedure takes only a few minutes. Recovery time is short, but expect your doctor to advise you to avoid sexual intercourse or using tampons for two or three weeks while your cervix heals. Patients may experience minor bleeding and a vaginal discharge for a few weeks after LEEP. As with any surgical procedure, there is some risk of infection.
The New Harvard Guide to Women’s Health, by Karen J. Carlson, M.D., Stephanie A. Eisenstat, M.D., and Terra Ziporyn, Ph.D. Harvard University Press (2004).
A Woman’s Guide to Menopause & Perimenopause, by Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., and Carol V. Wright, Ph.D. Yale University Press (2005).