Brief Description – Colposcopy also called cervical biopsy is a special way of looking at the cervix with a light and low-powered microscope to make the cervix appear much larger. It helps your doctor find and then biopsy abnormal areas in your cervix.
Why the Test is Performed
Colposcopy is done to detect cervical cancer and changes that may lead to cervical cancer. It is most often done when you have had an abnormal Pap smear. It may also be recommended if you have bleeding after sexual intercourse. Colposcopy may also be done when your doctor sees abnormal areas on your cervix during a pelvic exam. These may include:
- Any abnormal growth on the cervix, or elsewhere in the vagina
- Genital warts or HPV
- Irritation or inflammation of the cervixHow the Test is Performed
- You will lie on a table and place your feet in stirrups, just like you would do for a pelvic exam. The doctor will place an instrument (called a speculum) into your vagina. This allows your doctor to better see the cervix.
- The cervix and vagina are gently swabbed with a vinegar or iodine solution. This removes the mucus that covers the surface and highlights abnormal areas.
- The doctor will place the colposcope at the opening of the vagina and examine the area. Photographs may be taken. The colposcope does not touch you.
- If any areas look abnormal, a small sample of the tissue will be removed using small biopsy tools. Many samples may be taken. Sometimes a tissue sample from inside the cervix is removed. This is called endocervical curettage (ECC).How to Prepare For the Test
There is no special preparation. You may be more comfortable if you empty your bladder and bowel before the procedure. Ask your doctor about bringing a support person with you if that will help. However, before the exam the following are helpful:
- Do not douche (this is never recommended)
- Do not place any products into the vagina
- Do not have sex for 24 hours before the exam
Tell your doctor or nurse if you are pregnant or could be pregnant During the Test
You may have some discomfort when the speculum is placed inside the vagina. It may be more uncomfortable than a regular Pap smear. Slow, regular breathing will help you relax and relieve pain. You may feel a slight sting from the cleansing solution. You may also feel a pinch or cramp each time a tissue sample is taken.
After the Test
You may have some cramping or slight bleeding after the biopsy. Heavy bleeding is unusual; if you have bleeding that soaks a pad in an hour, call your doctor. Do not use tampons or put anything in the vagina for several days after a biopsy. You may have some bleeding after the biopsy, for up to 1 week. You should not douche, place tampons or creams into the vagina, or have sex for up to a week afterward. Ask your doctor how long you should wait. You can use sanitary pads.
After the biopsy, you may have some bleeding for up to a week. You may have mild cramping, your vagina may feel sore, and you may have a dark discharge for 1 – 3 days. A colposcopy and biopsy will not make it more difficult for you to become pregnant, or cause problems during pregnancy. Call your doctor if:
- Bleeding is very heavy or lasts for longer than 2 weeks.
- You have pain in your belly or in the pelvic area.
- You notice any signs of infection (fever, foul odour, or discharge).