Key points about a colposcopy

  • A colposcopy is a diagnostic test that your gynecologist or women’s health specialist uses to closely examine your cervix, vagina and vulva for abnormalities or signs of disease.
  • If you have an abnormal Pap test, you may need to undergo a colposcopy for further testing.
  • During a colposcopy, your specialist uses a specialized instrument called a colposcope.

Overview

A colposcopy is a diagnostic test that your women’s health specialist uses to closely examine your cervix, vagina and vulva for abnormalities or signs of disease. It's a relatively short procedure designed to check for abnormalities.

Candidates for a colposcopy

A colposcopy can diagnose the following conditions:

  • Cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix)
  • Genital warts
  • Precancerous cells in the tissue of the cervix
  • Precancerous cells in the tissue of the vagina
  • Precancerous cells in the vulva

Process for a colposcopy

Your gynecologist or specialist will perform the colposcopy in the office, and the procedure takes 10 to 20 minutes. Before the procedure, you will change out of your clothes and into a gown.

You will lie on your back on a table with your feet in stirrups, just like in a normal Pap test. Your specialist will place a metal speculum into your vagina, which opens up the walls of the vagina so your specialist can see your cervix.

Your specialist holds a colposcope (special magnifying instrument) a few inches away from the vulva and shines a light into your vagina. This allows your specialist to check for any visible signs of abnormalities. If your specialist sees any suspicious areas, they will take a small tissue sample (biopsy) for close analysis in the lab.

Expectations for a colposcopy

If your women's health specialist did not take a biopsy, you’ll have no restrictions after your colposcopy and can resume normal activities immediately. 

You will receive the results of your colposcopy over the phone within the next week or so. The results of the test will enable your specialist to determine the next steps of treatment.

You should call your gynecologist or primary care doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:

Bleeding heavier than a normal period

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Severe abdominal pain

Recovery from a colposcopy

If you had a biopsy, you might experience bleeding or pelvic pain for a couple of days after your procedure. You should avoid using tampons or having sexual intercourse for a week after your procedure, or as your specialist advises. 

When should I seek treatment?

If you believe you may need to undergo a colposcopy, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a gynecologist or women’s health provider for more specialized treatment.