What is a colposcopy?

A colposcopy is a procedure that uses a special microscope called a colposcope to look into the vagina and to look very closely at the cervix. The colposcope magnifies, or enlarges, the image of the outer portion of the cervix. It is somewhat like looking through a pair of binoculars. This allows your doctor to see the outer portion of the cervix better. Sometimes a small sample of tissue is taken for further study. The tissue samples help the health care provide to figure out how to treat any problems found. And, if cancer of the cervix is found early, or a pre cancerous change of cells is found, it can be treated and almost always can be cured. Also, for pre cancers and early cancers of the cervix, sometimes removal of part of the cervix may be the only treatment needed.

Why would a woman need a colposcopy?

A colposcopy is usually done when a woman has an abnormal Pap-Smear. Other reasons a woman may need a colposcopy is when, during a pelvic exam, the cervix, vagina, or vulva looks abnormal to the health care provider.

What happens during the procedure?

When you have a colposcopy, you will lie on an exam table just like you do when you have a regular pelvic exam. The health care provider uses an instrument called a speculum to spread the walls of the vagina apart. She or he then place the colposcope, which is like a microscope with a light on the end, at the opening of the vagina. The colposcope does not enter the vagina. The health care provider will look inside the vagina to locate any problem areas on the cervix or in the vagina. If any areas are of concern, the health care provider may take a small tissue sample. When this is done, the health care provider first numbs the area but you may feel a slight pinch or cramp. The tissue is then sent to a lab for further study.

What happens after the procedure?

Your health care provider will talk with you about what she or he saw inside your vagina and cervix. Most women feel fine after a colposcopy. You may feel a little lightheaded and if you had a biopsy, you may have some light bleeding. Talk to your health care provider about how to take care of yourself after the procedure and when you need to return for a checkup.

Are there any risks with having a colposcopy performed?

There is a very small risk of infection when you have a colposcopy. You may have mild pain and cramping during the procedure and light bleeding afterwards. This mos often happens when a biopsy is done. If you have heavy bleeding, a fever, or sever pain after the procedure, you should contact your health care provider right away.