scroll to top
Loading icon
Health Information Center
Press enter or spacebar to select a desired language.


  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:




A colposcopy is a close-up exam of the cervix using a scope. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus.

Female Reproductive Organs

Nucleus Image\\hgfiler01a\intellect\images\si55550939.jpgNULL49NULL2008-12-10249400Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Reasons for Procedure

This procedure is done after:

The exam can help to:

  • Allow a visual exam of the cervix, vaginal walls, or vulva
  • Give more information about abnormal cells found on a pap smear
  • Help diagnose cervical cancer or precancerous changes
  • Locate where a tissue biopsy should be done
  • Monitor treatment of changes of the cervix

Possible Complications

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
  • Infection

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.

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

After the procedure, the staff may give you a sanitary napkin to absorb any bleeding.

At Home

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:
  • Colposcopy. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at:
  • Colposcopy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.