CANCER, the biggest problem we are fighting with since ages. Still it is said that it is the monster eating humans in large numbers. There are numerous techniques to identify and treat this disease. Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP) is one of them. It is something new; isn’t it? Let’s know in detail about this procedure and its effectiveness.
What is a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP)?
Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) uses a wire loop heated by electric current to remove cells and tissue in a woman’s lower genital tract. It is used as part of the diagnosis and treatment for abnormal or cancerous conditions.The lower genital tract includes the cervix and vagina. The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus and the vagina connects the cervix and the vulva. With LEEP, an electric current passes through the fine wire loop to cut away a thin layer of abnormal tissue. This tissue will be sent to the lab for testing. LEEP can also remove abnormal cells to allow healthy tissue to grow.
Why might I need a LEEP?
LEEP may be done when cervical or vaginal problems are found during a pelvic exam, or abnormal cells are found during a Pap test. LEEP is also done to detect cancer of the cervix or vagina.
Cells that appear to be abnormal, but are not yet cancerous, may be called precancerous. These abnormal cells may be the first evidence of cancer that could develop years later.
LEEP may also be used to assist in the diagnosis or treatment of the following conditions:
- Polyps (benign growths)
- Genital warts, which may indicate infection with human papilloma virus (HPV), a risk factor for developing cervical cancer
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure in women whose mothers took DES during pregnancy, as DES exposure increases the risk for cancer of the reproductive system
Your healthcare provider may have other reasons to recommend LEEP.
LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure): Overview & Recovery
LEEP can be performed in a doctor’s office or clinic or in a hospital outpatient surgery department. The patient lies on her back on an examining table with the feet supported in stirrups (the position used to obtain a Pap smear). The doctor will use a speculum to open the vaginal walls, again similar to the procedure for a Pap test. Local anesthetic medication is typically injected in the area of the cervix (known as a cervical block). Sometimes, medications for pain control are also given intravenously or taken pre-operatively in pill form.
After the cervix is visualized, special solutions may be applied to the outside surface of the cervix to make the abnormal areas of tissue more recognizable. To remove the abnormal tissues, a low-voltage electrical current is delivered via a thin wire that is passed through tissues. To be certain that all abnormal tissue is removed, a very thin layer of normal-appearing tissue surrounding the area is excised. The area is treated afterwards with a chemical substance to help prevent bleeding.
The most common side effects of the procedure are mild pain and cramping that may occur over the first few hours after the procedure. Spotting and vaginal discharge may occur and persist for up to several weeks. Sexual intercourse and tampon use should be avoided for a time to allow better healing. The removed tissue will then be sent to the laboratory for microscopic analysis by a pathologist to determine if the abnormal areas were completely removed. This analysis may take several days to complete.
How effective is LEEP?
LEEP removes all abnormal cervical cells most of the time. If LEEP doesn’t remove all of the abnormal cells, you may have to have LEEP again, or your doctor or nurse may recommend more tests or a different treatment. Effectiveness of both, the LEEP and cone biopsies are 85-90 percent effective in treating moderate to severely abnormal cells of the cervix. The majority of patients who have abnormal Pap smears and then are treated with a LEEP or cone biopsy subsequently have normal Pap smears.
How much time the procedure take?
The procedure takes about 10 minutes. You will be in the procedure room for about 30 minutes. You will have little or no discomfort from the procedure.
Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP)
What are the risks for a LEEP?
Some possible complications may include:
- Changes or scarring in the cervix from removal of tissue
- Trouble getting pregnant
- Potential for preterm birth or having a low birth weight baby
If you are allergic to or sensitive to medications, iodine, or latex, tell your healthcare provider.
If you are pregnant or think you could be, tell your healthcare provider.
There may be other risks depending on your condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.
Certain factors or conditions may interfere with LEEP. These factors include:
- Acute pelvic inflammatory disease
- Acute inflammation of the cervix
Can you have a baby after a LEEP procedure?
These are some of the risks that are associated with pregnancy after a LEEP: Cervical incompetence. When your cervix is diagnosed as “incompetent,” it means that the cervix is unable to stay closed during a pregnancy. Cervical incompetence can result in miscarriage and preterm labor.
This was about LEEP. Your health care practitioner will give you more details if needed. Proper diagnosis at correct time can prevent you from getting cancer. Proper knowledge can help you lead a healthy life.