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.
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.