The LEEP Procedure for HPV
You might have been told by your doctor that you need
to have a LEEP procedure for HPV but are unsure exactly
what this is. LEEP is a medical procedure used to remove
some cervical tissue for microscopic examination, either
to diagnose or to treat abnormal cervical cells which
may lead to cervical cancer.
LEEP stands for Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure;
the Loop is the instrument used, being a thin loop of
wire called a loop electrode; Electrosurgical means
that the surgical procedure uses a loop electrode which
has a high density electric current passed through it;
Excision means to take a piece of tissue, in this case,
of the cervix. The tissue removed during the procedure
is sent to a pathology laboratory for analysis.
A LEEP procedure for HPV may be required if a Pap or
HPV test have returned a positive result for abnormal
cells being present in the cervix. The LEEP allows a
larger sample of the cervix to be examined to determine
the cause and extent of the abnormality of the cervical
cells; this is called a biopsy.The surgical procedure
is also used to remove abnormal tissue that has been
identified on the cervix, which could be precancerous
or cancerous. Abnormal cells that have a high risk of
developing into cancer are described by the medical
term cervical dysplasia. Some strains of HPV cause this
abnormality of cervical cells that are sometimes a precursor
to cancer. Genital warts are a symptom of different
strains of HPV; these can also be removed with a LEEP
procedure if they are proving to be uncomfortable or
The procedure is usually performed in the doctor's
office and will take between 30 and 45 minutes. A local
anesthetic is given to the patient prior to the procedure
and pain medication may be prescribed in case of any
discomfort after the surgery. You will be advised to
rest after the procedure but should be able to return
to normal activities within a day or two. Some discomfort
is to be expected and there may be some vaginal discharge.
You should avoid sexual intercourse, using tampons and
doing any heavy lifting for four weeks after having
a LEEP. Your doctor will advise you to have a Pap test
every 4 months for about 2 years to make sure no further
abnormalities appear. If there is going to be a recurrence,
it is usually within that 2 year period, but most women
don't have any recurrence at all.
As with any surgical procedure, there are potential
risks but the LEEP procedure for HPV has proven to be
fairly risk-free. The main risk is too much tissue being
taken from the cervix but this is rare when the procedure
is performed by an experienced surgeon.
With the risks
associated with surgery in mind, LEEP may not be warranted
for less serious cell abnormalities. Most doctors prefer
to adopt a wait and see approach with less serious abnormalities
and follow up with a second Pap smear in 6 months' time.
Some abnormalities disappear on their own with no intervention
and so rushing into LEEP surgery isn't always warranted.