Loop electrosurgical excision procedures (LEEP)

Overview

If abnormal tissue is found in your cervix, your doctor may recommend a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) to remove the tissue and lower your risk of cervical cancer.

During the LEEP procedure, a thin wire with an electrical current is used cut out a shallow part of the cervix containing tissue at risk for developing cancer. The removed tissue is then sent to a lab to be examined for abnormalities.

The procedure is minor and can be performed with or without anesthesia. After the procedure, which only takes a few minutes, you can go home and resume most normal activity within a few days.

Reasons for treatment

LEEP procedures are usually ordered when a colposcopy, which is a procedure that examines your cervix, vagina and vulva, finds abnormal tissue in the cervix. These findings may suggest you are at a higher risk of cervical cancer. Other tests that expose abnormalities in the cervical tissue may also warrant a LEEP procedure, such as a Pap test.

Risks and side effects

LEEP is a very safe, standardized procedure that comes with very few risks. In some rare cases, women can experience:

  • Heavy bleeding
  • Infection
  • Scarring or shortening of the cervix
  • Risk of premature birth in future pregnancies
  • Narrowing of the vagina
  • Difficulty getting pregnant

Preparing for treatment

There is generally no need to prepare for a LEEP procedure, but your physician will give you instructions if your specific situation requires special preparation. Ideally, the procedure is conducted when you are not menstruating. You may feel some discomfort during the procedure.

What to expect after treatment

After the procedure, it is normal to experience some bleeding and cramping. You should avoid intercourse, using tampons and douching for the next two weeks.

If you experience abnormal, heavy bleeding, bleeding with clots or severe pain in the abdomen, call your physician to schedule an appointment immediately. Otherwise, you will begin visiting your physician for regular follow-ups and cervical cancer screenings to make sure that cancer doesn’t develop.

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