What Is a Cervical Colposcopy?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 28 December 2019
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A cervical colposcopy is a relatively painless medical procedure that is used to help the doctor look for abnormalities involving the cervix. This procedure is primarily performed when there has been an abnormal pap smear, although a gynecologist may decide to do a cervical colposcopy if the cervix does not appear normal during a routine exam. This type of examination can assist the doctor in finding evidence of medical conditions such as cervical dysplasia, HPV, or even cervical cancer. The procedure is a relatively simple one that takes only a few minutes to complete and is normally performed in the doctor's office.

Before the cervical colposcopy begins, the woman is positioned on the examining table with her feet in stirrups in the same manner as for any other gynecological exam. Acetic acid, a formulation similar to that of vinegar, is then placed on the cervix. A special instrument containing a bright light, known as a colposcope, is then placed close to the vagina so that it can be used to view the cervix and surrounding tissues. Many cervical abnormalities can be diagnosed during this procedure, although additional medical procedures may need to be done at the same time.


The gynecologist pays close attention to any areas of the cervix that appear white when performing a cervical colposcopy. These white areas could indicate the presence of a condition known as cervical dysplasia. If there is any damage to the blood vessels in or around the cervix, the doctor should be able to detect this during the procedure as well. If there are any concerns, the doctor may choose to perform a biopsy at this time. A biopsy involves the removal of a small sample of tissue that is then sent to an outside laboratory for further testing.

The procedure itself does not cause any pain, and additional medical procedures may sometimes be performed at the same time. These additional procedures may cause side effects such as pain, bleeding, or dark-colored vaginal discharge. Over-the-counter or prescription medications can be used to treat any pain or discomfort that develops as the result of these procedures. Depending on the results of the cervical colposcopy and any other procedures that are performed, additional testing or treatment methods may become necessary. Any questions or concerns about the cervical colposcopy procedure or individualized results should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.



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