What is a cervical biopsy?

A cervical biopsy is a procedure that is performed to find precancerous cells or diagnose cervical cancer. It is typically performed if you have an abnormal Pap smear result. During a cervical biopsy, your doctor will remove tissue from the cervix to examine under a microscope.

Who is a candidate for a cervical biopsy?

A cervical biopsy can confirm the presence of cancer or precancerous cells. If your doctor suspects you have cervical cancer, he or she will likely order a cervical biopsy to confirm the diagnosis as well as to identify what stage of the disease you are in.

What are risks of a cervical biopsy?

The most common side effects of a cervical biopsy include:

  • Infection 
  • Bleeding

If you are having a cone biopsy, you are at greater risk for infertility and miscarriage due to the scarring associated with the procedure.

What to expect during a cervical biopsy?

During a cervical biopsy, you will be asked to lie on your back with your legs in stirrups. Some patients will need general anesthesia while others will need local anesthesia, so you are not able to feel the area during the procedure. Your doctor will then clean the area with vinegar and water and may be swapped with iodine, so the doctor can see any abnormal areas more clearly. 

Once the area is ready, your doctor will determine which way he or she will perform the cervical biopsy. There are three ways to perform a cervical biopsy:

  • Punch biopsy: During a punch biopsy, a circular blade is used to remove the sample of tissue for evaluation.
  • Cone biopsy: Your doctor will use a laser or scalpel to remove a “cone-shaped” piece of tissue from the cervix during a cone biopsy.
  • Endocervical curettage (ECC): During a endocervical curettage, your doctor will use a curette to scrape the lining of the endocervical canal.

Recovery from a cervical biopsy

Although many patients go home after a cervical biopsy, some patients may need to stay in the hospital for monitoring. You may have bleeding or cramping for a week or more after the procedure. 

Your doctor will evaluate your case and give you strict recovery instructions including:

  • Avoid heavy lifting and sexual intercourse 
  • Do not use tampons for a week to a month depending on the type of biopsy you have had

If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor right away:

  • Severe pain
  • Fever
  • Heavy bleeding

When the results of the biopsy are ready, your doctor will call to discuss next steps. If the biopsy is normal, you do not have cancer or precancerous cells. If the biopsy found cancerous or precancerous cells, you will schedule a follow-up appointment to discuss a treatment plan.

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