Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) prevents cervical cancer by removing abnormal cells from the cervix. Dr. Anna Le and the team at Annandale Ob-Gyn perform LEEP when results from a Pap test or cervical biopsy indicate the presence of cells that are likely to become cancerous. Cervical cancer doesn’t cause symptoms in the early stage, so it’s important to catch it with regular, preventive Pap smears. To schedule an exam, call one of the offices in Annandale or Alexandria, Virginia, or book an appointment online.

What causes cervical cancer?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) refers to a large group of viruses that can be picked up from a variety of sources, including sexual contact. A small number of the viruses transmitted sexually are called high-risk HPV because they can cause cervical cancer. In fact, virtually all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV.

The immune system normally clears away high-risk HPV infections, so most women don’t develop cervical cancer. In some women, however, the infection integrates into normal cervical cells. HPV makes the cells grow abnormally, eventually becoming precancerous, then turning into cervical cancer.

How are you tested for cervical cancer?

A Pap test is performed to test for abnormal changes in cervical cells. Your doctor at Annandale Ob-Gyn & Primary Care takes a small sample of cells from your cervix, then they’re sent to a lab where specialists examine the sample to look for abnormal cells.

When your Pap results show mild abnormalities caused by HPV, or moderate to severe cellular abnormalities that are precancerous, you’ll need a colposcopy. During a colposcopy, your doctor uses a binocular-type device — a colposcope — to get a magnified view of your cervix.

What is LEEP?

LEEP removes abnormal cells from your cervix using a thin wire loop as the surgical tool. A low electric current is passed through the loop, allowing it to cut away a thin layer of your cervix. LEEP can be used during a colposcopy to take a biopsy and as a treatment to remove abnormal cervical cells.

What happens during LEEP?

Using a colposcope, your doctor at Annandale Ob-Gyn & Primary Care applies a solution to your cervix that makes abnormal cells visible. After applying a local anesthetic, your doctor inserts the loop into your vagina to reach the cervix and remove abnormal tissues. You won’t feel pain as the loop is used to remove abnormal tissues, but you may feel pressure. Some women feel faint during the procedure.

LEEP only takes 10-20 minutes, then a medicated paste may be applied to your cervix to stop bleeding, and you can go home. The tissue that was removed is sent to a lab, where they verify your diagnosis and ensure all of the abnormal cells were removed.