A colposcopy is a close-up exam of the cervix using a scope. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus.
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Reasons for Procedure
This procedure is done after:
- An abnormal pap test result
- Positive human papillomavirus (HPV) test—virus that increases risk for cancer
The exam can help to:
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
- Excessive bleeding
- Problems from anesthesia
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The care team may meet with you to talk about:
- Anesthesia options
- Any allergies you may have
- Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before the procedure
- Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
- Avoiding sex before the procedure
- Whether you need a ride to and from the procedure
The cervix may be numbed with a local anesthetic.
Description of the Procedure
A device called a speculum will be inserted into the vagina to gently spread apart the vaginal walls. The scope will be placed at the opening of the vagina. Then, the cervix will be wiped with a solution. This will make it easier to see abnormal areas. The cervix and vagina will be examined with the scope. A small sample of tissue may also be taken. The scope and speculum will be removed.
How Long Will It Take?
About 10 to 15 minutes
How Much Will It Hurt?
Most people do not feel pain. There may be a slight pinch or mild cramping if a sample is removed.
At the Care Center
After the procedure, the staff may give you a sanitary napkin to absorb any bleeding.
It will take about a week to heal if a sample was removed. Sanitary pads may be needed for the first few days. Sex and tampon use will need to be avoided during this time.
Problems to Look Out For
Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
- Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
- Pain that is not controlled by medicine
- Heavy bleeding
- Bad-smelling vaginal discharge
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
- American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Practice Bulletin No. 140: management of abnormal cervical cancer screening test results and cervical cancer precursors. Obstet Gynecol. 2013;122(6):1338-1367.
- Cervical cancer—colposcopy. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/colposcopy.
- Colposcopy. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/colposcopy.
- Colposcopy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/procedure/colposcopy.
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