The cervical biopsy is a surgical procedure, where a small amount of tissue is removed from the cervix. This test is completed to collect a tissue sample and test for cancerous or precancerous cells. The cervix is the canal between the uterus and the vagina. A biopsy is the actual process of removing sample tissue from the patient.
There are three types of cervical biopsy procedures: punch, cone, and endocervical curettage (ECC). All three must be performed by a certified medical doctor but can be completed either in the doctor’s office or in a hospital outpatient clinic. A local anesthetic may be used, if required.
A punch biopsy uses a small tool that pinches the tissue and removes a round sample. It is quite common to collect two or three samples from different areas of the cervix when using this type of biopsy, as the sample is very localized. The cone biopsy uses a laser to remove a complete layer of tissue from the surface of the cervix. The entire cervix is sampled with this technique, providing enough material to test for any cancerous or precancerous cells.
In an endocervical curettage process, the curette is inserted into the cervix and is used to scrape the lining of the endocervical canal. This area is inside the cervix and is not available for a visual inspection. The curette is a narrow instrument used to scrape and collect tissue samples.
The purpose of a cervical biopsy is to detect cancer or precancerous lesions, polyps, or genital warts. This test is usually ordered after a pelvic examination or pap test, where abnormal cells are found. A pelvic exam or pap test is a standard medical exam completed every one to three years to identify cancer or changes to the reproductive system.
Any cells that have an abnormal shape are considered precancerous. This term is used to describe cells that are not yet cancerous, but are not normal shape and size. Cancer is the growth and development of cells that are not the correct shape and size. Abnormal cell development is fairly common, but these cells usually die very quickly. Abnormal cells that are able to sustain themselves and multiply are considered cancer cells.
A cervical biopsy is a nerve-racking procedure. Possible complications from this surgery include infections and bleeding. If you are pregnant, or may be pregnant, inform your doctor, as this affects the type of cervical biopsy that can be done.