A colposcopy is a close-up exam of the cervix. It is done with a tool called the colposcope. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus.
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Colposcopy is usually done after one of the following:
The exam can help to:
Complications are rare. But, no procedure is completely free of risk. The care team will talk about possible problems. These may include:
In the 24 hours before the procedure, your doctor may advise you to:
The cervix may be numbed with a local anesthetic. It may not be needed.
It will start like a regular pelvic exam. A device called a speculum will be inserted into the vagina. The speculum will gently spread apart the vaginal walls. The scope will be placed at the opening of the vagina. Then, the cervix will be wiped with a solution. This will make it easier to see abnormal areas. The cervix and vagina will be examined closely. A small sample of tissue may also be taken. Once the doctor is done the scope will be removed. Then the speculum will be closed and removed.
About 5 to 10 minutes
It is usually painless. You may feel a slight pinch and mild cramping if a sample is removed.
The area will need to heal for about a week if a sample was removed. This may need sanitary pads for a few days and avoid sex or tampon use.
The doctor will talk about next steps which may include other tests or treatment.
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications, such as:
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. Accessed December 13, 2020.
Colposcopy. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq135.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20121219T1514556583. Accessed December 13, 2020.
Last reviewed November 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG