A special magnifying device with a light, called a colposcope, is used to visually examine the cervix and vagina.
Female Reproductive Organs
Reasons for Procedure
Colposcopy is usually done when a:
- Pap test]]> is abnormal
- ]]>Human papillomavirus (HPV) test]]> is positive for certain subtypes (These subtypes place you at an increased risk for developing cancer.)
This procedure can be used to:
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have colposcopy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
In the 24 hours leading up to the procedure, your doctor may advise you to avoid:
- Having sexual intercourse
- Using medicine or creams in your vagina
Usually no anesthesia is needed. In certain cases, the cervix may be numbed with a local anesthetic.
Description of the Procedure
You will lie on your back with your feet in foot rests. The doctor will insert a speculum into your vagina. The vaginal walls will be spread apart to see the inside of the vagina and the cervix. The doctor will place the colposcope at the opening of the vagina. Then, the doctor will wipe the cervix with a solution. The solution will make abnormal areas easier to see. The cervix and vagina will be examined closely with the colposcope. The doctor may use a long tool to take a sample of tissue from the cervix or vaginal wall.
How Long Will It Take?
About 5-10 minutes
How Much Will It Hurt?
This procedure is usually painless. If a biopsy is taken, you may feel a slight pinch and mild cramping.
When you return home after the procedure, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
- If you did not have a biopsy, return to normal activities. You may have light bleeding for a couple of days.
- If you have a biopsy, you may feel sore for a day or two. You may also have bleeding and dark discharge. You may need to use a sanitary pad for a few days. Do not put anything into your vagina for at least a week. Do not use tampons, have sex, or douche.
- Baths and showers are OK.
Results from a biopsy should be ready in about one week. The results will determine whether you need further testing or treatment.
The American Academy of Family Physicians
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Colposcopy . Washington, DC: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; 2000.
Colposcopy. National Women’s Health Information Center website. Available at: http://www.4woman.gov/faq/colposcopy.htm . Accessed March 16, 2004.
Colposcopy: patient information. Louisiana State University Health Science Center website. Available at: http://lib-sh.lsumc.edu/fammed/pted/colpopre.html . Accessed March 16, 2004.
Last reviewed November 2009 by ]]>Ganson Purcell, Jr., MD, FACOG, FACPE]]>
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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