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Cervical cancer is a leading cause of deaths in women, but with early diagnosis and treatment, lives can be saved. The LEEP procedure plays an important role in diagnosing and treating cervical cancer in its earliest stages. What do you need to know about it?

Cervical cancer occurs due to abnormal growth of the cells of your cervix. Initially this cancer does not produce any symptoms. Later it manifests as vaginal bleeding, pain, white discharge and bleeding following sex. About 70 percent of cervical cancers occur in low-income countries.

Routine three yearly testing of cervical smears can detect this malignancy in a very early precancerous stage. Early detection can help prevent further growth as well as help initiate the treatment as soon as possible. 

An early cervical cancer can be treated by either ablating or destroying the tissue or by excising the diseased portion of the cervix. Laser therapy or cryo therapy could destroy the diseased tissue. But you may experience profuse white discharges. With the help of the Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP), the abnormal tissues are completely excised from the cervix.

A loop of very thin stainless-steel or tungsten wire is used for excision of the tissue. A blended current is passed from a low voltage output, cutting the tissue and coagulating it. With this loop, the abnormal tissue is excised gradually. It is done when the cervix is visualized with the help of a special device called a colposcope.

The general  guideline for screening of cervical cancer is the testing of a cervical  smear, followed by a colposcopic evaluation of the cervix if the smear result is suggestive of cancer. 

Using a colposcope, even cancer in its earliest stages can be visualized. Now,with the help of the LEEP, we can effectively excise the whole abnormal zone in the same sitting and the excised tissue is thus available for biopsy. 

Here lies the importance of this procedure: diagnosis and treatment can be completed in the same sitting in a single office visit. This reduces the patient’s anxiety by eliminating the need to wait for a diagnosis and to then return for additional treatment. But the colposcopist must be certain enough that the colposcopic changes that are seen are sufficiently charecteristic that of a precancer. Thus, if used appropriately, LEEP may save time and money.

Like any other procedures, the LEEP procedure has can lead to complications. Significant bleeding from the cervix at the time of LEEP is uncommon, but can occur. Infection of the cervix as well as an ascending infection involving the uterus, fallopian tubes and adjacent structures following LEEP are rare, but also can occur. Long-term complications include weakness of cervix termed cervical incompetence that could lead to premature delivery in any pregnancies following the procedure. Study results showed there is a 6.6 percent incidence of premature birth of those women whpo underwent LEEP in contrast to 3.5 percent in the general pregnant population.

The overall cure rate for LEEP is 95 percent. This rate depends on the anatomy or location of the lesion. A cervix is a tube-like structure. If the abnormal zone is somehow extended inside the canal, it becomes difficult to excise the whole zone under direct vision. However, a repeat excision is only necessary when the residual disease can be documented during a follow-up visit four to six months after the LEEP procedure.

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