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What Is a Colposcopy?

A woman gynecologist handling a colposcope

What is a colposcopy?

  1. Takes a close-up look at your cervix
  2. Looks for abnormal cells
  3. Colposcope examines your cervix
  4. The after-effects of colposcopy


It’s always a good idea to visit your doctor for a check-up once in a while. Going to a women’s health center or a hospital can help you check for certain illnesses. A colposcopy is essential for any woman since everyone has the potential to develop cervical cancer. It can scope out any potential cancer cells or abnormal cells.

Interested in learning more? Here’s what you need to know about colposcopy.


Takes a Close-Up Look at Your Cervix

Close up of a young woman clutching her stomach in pain

A colposcopy is a quick and easy way to look at the condition of the cells in your cervix. This is a type of cervical cancer test that can be beneficial specifically for adult women. Take note that this is different from your regular pap smear. A pap smear is an initial test that takes a cell sample from your cervix. This sample is then tested for any changes. If it shows abnormal cells or HPV positive results, a colposcopy can be done to confirm your condition.

The results of your colposcopy can take 1-2 weeks for the lab to process. Your doctor will contact once the results are out. The abnormal results you should watch out for are as follows:

  • Cervical Polyps
  • Cervical Warts
  • HPV (a biopsy can determine which strain of HPV it is)
  • Cervicitis
  • Cervical Dysplasia
  • Cervical Cancer


Looks For Abnormal Cells

An asian woman lying in pain on a couch clutching her stomach

Having a colposcopy can detect any developing abnormal cells in your cervix, vagina, or vulva. These abnormal cells are also called precancerous tissues. Your doctor may find other health conditions such as genital warts and noncancerous polyps. Through an instrument called a colposcope, your doctor will have a well illuminated, magnified view of the tissues in your cervix.


Colposcope Examines Your Cervix

Medical instruments laid out on a table vaginal speculum, gloves

A colposcopy is a short outpatient exam that is typically done in the doctor’s office. Prior to the exam, you will be asked to empty your bladder and bowels. Remember to avoid sexual contact, douching, vaginal medicines, and tampons for 24 hours before your appointment. Inform your doctor of any allergies to latex, iodine, and other medicines. Also, let your doctor know if you’re pregnant as well.

The entire colposcopy exam takes approximately 20-30 minutes to complete. The doctor will ask you to lie face up on the examination table. You will need to bend your legs and place your feet on the stirrups. This is the same as you would for any pelvic exam or pap smear.

The procedure begins with the insertion of a speculum into your vagina. This is a small tool used to extend your vagina’s opening so that the doctor has a clear view of the inside and the outside of your cervix. Your doctor will then apply iodine or vinegar to your cervix with a cotton swab. These solutions allow any abnormal cells to turn white.

After swabbing the solution, the doctor will proceed to use the colposcope. A small camera may be used to take photos. If your doctor spots any abnormal cells, you will need to have a biopsy. The biopsy will remove tissue samples from the abnormal areas or your cervix. The samples are then sent to the lab for further analysis.

Be aware that discomfort may be experienced during the exam. You might feel a slight cramping sensation or pinching when the doctor removes tissue from the biopsy. This is normal, but if you experience any severe pain, inform your doctor immediately.


The After-Effects of Colposcopy

A sanitary napkin laid out on a pink background with red glitter on top to symbolize vaginal blood discharge

After the exam, you may experience mild cramps. Over-the-counter medicine can be used to reduce cramping. You can also ask your doctor to give you a specific recommendation or prescription after the procedure. Be prepared to experience vaginal discharge 1-2 days after the colposcopy.

If you had a biopsy after your colposcopy, your doctor will add a liquid bandage solution to the affected areas. It mixes with blood once healing begins. It can be discharged out of your vagina in the form of a thick, dark discharge. Prepare to experience spotting for the next few days. This is normal and your doctor will recommend that you use a sanitary pad. Contact your doctor if you experience the following:

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding
  • Vaginal bleeding for more than 7 days
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic pain and cramps that don’t improve even after oral medicine
  • Fevers greater than 38 degrees Celsius


Key Takeaway

Have a colposcopy if you suspect that you have abnormalities in your cervix, vagina, or vulva. This can determine if you have any dangerous infections or cancerous cells. Prevention is key and early detection of these abnormalities can save and improve the quality of your life.

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