In Gynecology and Obstetrics, a Colposcopy is a method of viewing the cervix with the use of a light and a low-powered microscope to let the Doctor view the cervix much larger than it actually is. This gives your doctor the ability to view your cervix in greater detail and to easily locate and biopsy any cervical abnormalities.

How is a Colposcopy Performed?

You will lie on the examining table as you would with a normal pelvic exam, with your feet in stirrups. Using a speculum, your doctor will gently swab your vagina and cervix with acetic acid (dilute vinegar) or iodine. This will remove the mucus that naturally covers these surfaces and will highlight any abnormalities.

The colposcope is then placed at the opening of the vagina (without touching you) to begin the examination. Photographs are then taken and if any abnormalities are identified, your doctor will take a small sample of the tissue (biopsy) using small forceps. Depending on the location and size of the abnormalities, many biopsies may be taken during the exam.

How do I Prepare for a Colposcopy?

Because the colposcopy is not a major procedure, preparation involves ensuring your own comfort. You may want to empty your bladder and bowels prior to the procedure to make you feel more comfortable. It is also not advisable to douche, insert anything into the vagina or have sexual intercourse 24 hours prior to the exam. Be sure to let your doctor know if you’re pregnant or could possibly be pregnant.

Understanding the Results

Your healthcare provider should be able to explain any abnormalities that were observed during the procedure. Abnormal findings may include polyps, genital warts, abnormal patterns in the blood vessels, swollen, worn or wasted away areas (atrophic), or white patches on the cervix. Abnormal biopsy results may include cervical cancer, cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (precancerous tissue changes that are also called cervical dysplasia), or cervical warts (HPV).

Biopsy results usually take 1 to 2 weeks after a pathologist examines the tissue samples and reports to your doctor whether the results appear normal or abnormal.