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The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus. A special magnifying device with a light, called a colposcope, can be used to visually examine the cervix and vagina.
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Reasons for Procedure
Colposcopy is usually done when a:
- Pap test is abnormal
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) test is positive for certain subtypes that 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. These may include:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
In the 24 hours before the procedure, your doctor may advise you to avoid:
- Having sexual intercourse
- Using medication 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
A device called a speculum will be inserted into the vagina. The speculum will gently spread apart the vaginal walls. The inside of the vagina and the cervix will be easier to see. The colposcope will be placed at the opening of the vagina. Then, the cervix will be wiped with a solution. The solution will make abnormal areas easier to see. The cervix and vagina will be examined closely with the colposcope. A long tool may be used 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 had a biopsy done:
- 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 or have sex until your doctor says it is okay.
Results from a biopsy should be ready in about one week. The results will determine whether you need more testing or treatment.
Call Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications, such as:
- Heavy bleeding
- Fever, chills
- Severe pain
- Bad-smelling vaginal discharge
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Practice Bulletin No. 140: management of abnormal cervical cancer screening test results and cervical cancer precursors. Obstet Gynecol. 2013;122(6):1338-1367.
Cervical cancer—colposcopy. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/cervical-cancer/diagnosis-tests/colposcopy.html. Updated August 2010. Accessed October 30, 2014.
Colposcopy. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq135.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20121219T1514556583. Accessed October 30, 2014.
- Reviewer: Karli-Rae Kerrschneider, RN
- Review Date: 12/2015
- Update Date: 12/20/2014