Colposcopy is a procedure where your doctor uses a special magnifying device to look at your vulva, vagina and cervix . If the doctor sees a problem, he or she can take a small sample of tissue (biopsy) from abnormal area. The sample is looked at under a microscope. The purpose of colposcopy is to find out who can develop cervical cancer in future and prevent it. This test is most often done when the result of a Pap test is abnormal. Most abnormal Pap tests are caused by viral infections called HPV (Warts) . In some cases, the untreated cervical cell changes of abnormal Pap tests may become precancerous or cancerous cells. During the test, your doctor uses a lighted magnifying device that looks like a pair of binoculars. This device is called a colposcope. It allows your doctor to see problems that would be missed by the naked eye. Your doctor may put vinegar (acetic acid) and sometimes iodine on the vagina and cervix with a cotton swab or cotton balls. It allows the doctor to see problem areas more clearly.

Colposcopy is done to evaluate:

  • An abnormal Pap test.
  • Check a sore or other problem (such as genital warts) found on or around the vagina and cervix.
  • Follow up on abnormal areas seen on a previous colposcopy. It can also be done to see if treatment for a problem worked.
  • If pap smear shows a high-risk type of HPV.

Let doctor know if:

  • You are or might be pregnant. Colposcopy is safe during pregnancy. If a cervical biopsy is needed during the test, the chance of any harm to the pregnancy (such as miscarriage) is very small. But you may have more bleeding from the biopsy. A colposcopy may be repeated about 6-12 weeks after your baby is born.
  • Take any medicines.
  • Are allergic to any medicines specially to Iodine.
  • Have had bleeding problems or take blood thinners. These include aspirin and warfarin (such as Coumadin).

How It Is Done

Colposcopy is usually done done in your doctor's office.

The doctor will insert speculum into your vagina. It gently spreads apart the vaginal walls so your doctor can see inside the vagina and the cervix. The colposcope is moved near your vagina. Your doctor looks through it at the vagina and cervix. Vinegar (acetic acid) or iodine may be used on your cervix to make abnormal areas easier to see. Photos or videos of the vagina and cervix may be taken.

If areas of abnormal tissue are found on the cervix, your doctor will take a small sample of the tissue. This is called a cervical biopsy. Usually several samples are taken. The samples are looked at under a microscope for changes to show pre cancer cells or even cancer cells are present or is likely to develop. If bleeding occurs, a special liquid (Monsel's) or silver nitrate swab may be used on the area to stop the bleeding.

If a sample of tissue is needed from inside the opening of the cervix, a test called endocervical curettage (ECC) will be done. This area can't be seen by the colposcope. So a small sharp-edged tool called a curette is gently put into the area to take a sample. ECC takes less than a minute to do. It may cause mild cramping. An ECC is not done during pregnancy.

Colposcopy and a cervical biopsy usually take about 15 minutes.

How It Feels

You may feel some discomfort when the speculum is put in. You may feel a pinch and have some cramping if a tissue sample is taken.


In rare cases, a cervical biopsy can cause an infection or bleeding. Bleeding can usually be stopped by using a special liquid or swab on the area.

After the test

If you have a biopsy, your vagina may feel sore for a day or two. Some vaginal bleeding or discharge is normal for up to a week after the biopsy. The discharge may be dark-colored. You can use a sanitary pad for the bleeding. Do not douche, have sex, or use tampons for 1 week. This will allow time for your cervix to heal. Do not exercise for 1 day after your colposcopy.

Follow any instructions your doctor gave you. Call your doctor if you have:

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding. (This means more than a normal menstrual period).
  • A fever.
  • Belly pain.
  • Bad-smelling vaginal discharge.


Colposcopy is a way for your doctor to use a special magnifying device to look at your vulva, vagina,and cervix. Your doctor will talk to you about what he or she sees at the time of the test. Lab results from a biopsy may take several days or more.

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