Colposcopy and Cervical Biopsy

What is the test?

Colposcopy is a procedure in which a magnifying lens is used to closely examine a woman's cervix, the entrance to the uterus, located at the inner end of the vagina. The colposcope is basically a pair of special binoculars on a rolling stand. By looking through the colposcope, a doctor can identify abnormal-appearing areas of the cervix, which can then be biopsied. A pathologist examines the biopsy specimen under a microscope to determine if a precancerous condition (or, rarely, cancer) is present.

Colposcopy is done to evaluate an abnormal Pap smear. It is appropriate to have colposcopy if your pap reveals abnormal cells, particularly if you have human papillomavirus (HPV) found in the pap sample. It is also appropriate to have colposcopy if you have HPV found in repeated pap samples. This is true even if the cells appear normal.

How do I prepare for the test?

If you think you might be pregnant, tell your doctor; it may be necessary to defer the procedure. Try to schedule the test for a day when you are not likely to be menstruating. For a day before the test, avoid having sexual intercourse and using any creams inside the vagina.

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