Abnormal cells: get them treated

Abnormal cells are not cancer. But they can lead to cancer.

Your healthcare provider performs a colposcopy to look for cell abnormalities and a biopsy to determine if you need treatment for your abnormal cells.

Colposcopy views the cervix with a lighted magnifying instrument to see the abnormal cells more closely. Biopsy removes a tissue sample for analysis in the laboratory. The biopsy helps determine if the cell changes are minor or more severe and what further treatment, if any, may be necessary.

You and your healthcare provider will discuss which procedure is best for you.

  • LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision procedure): In this widely performed procedure, a fine wire loop carrying a (safe!) electrical current removes abnormal tissue. You can be treated as an outpatient, with local anesthesia.
  • Laser or “cold-knife” conization (cone biopsy): A laser or scalpel (“cold-knife”) removes a cone or cylinder-shaped piece of the cervix. This removes a large amount of tissue. Procedures using a scalpel can have more complications (problems after surgery) than those done with a laser.
  • Laser therapy: A tiny beam of high-intensity light vaporizes abnormal cells. The area and depth of treatment is very precisely controlled.
  • Cryotherapy: A very cold probe freezes – and destroys – abnormal cells. One problem with this treatment is that the probe can’t always reach the cells.

Both LEEP and the cone biopsy procedure produce tissue samples for lab analysis if needed. Laser therapy and cryotherapy do not produce tissue samples. For most women, these procedures do not interfere with your ability to get pregnant. But if you get pregnant in the future, there is an increased risk of premature delivery with the LEEP. It’s a good idea to discuss this with your healthcare provider.


Tamika & Friends is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from QIAGEN.