What is a Colposcopy and When Do You Need One?

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • A colposcopy is done after an abnormal pap smear to help determine if there are an early signs of cancer. This procedure is done in your gynecologist's office and normally takes from 20 minutes to 30 minutes to complete.


    A colposcopy allows your doctor to look at the vagina, vulva and cervix. A colposcope is a medical instrument with light and magnification to allow the doctor to closely see inside the vagina. A speculum is used to open the vagina. A vinegar solution is then applied to the cervix and vagina. This causes any abnormal tissue to turn white so the doctor can identify and examine these areas.

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    When abnormal tissues are apparent, a doctor may perform a biopsy at the time of the colposcopy. This involves removing small amounts of tissue for further testing to be done by a pathologist. Results from the biopsy are usually available one to two weeks after the biopsy.


    If you are scheduled to have a colposcopy, you need to avoid using douching products, tampons or having sexual intercourse for the 24 hours preceding the procedure.


    After the colposcopy, you may experience some dark colored vaginal discharge or some spotting. If you had a biopsy as well, there may be a thick, black discharge. This is caused by a paste placed over the area where tissue was removed during the biopsy. The discharge may last for several days.


    In addition, for one week after the procedure you should not use a tampon or have sexual intercourse.


    This procedure is considered safe. Sometimes, however, complications will arise. You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following after the colposcopy:


    • Heavy bleeding
    • Lower abdominal pain (you may experience some cramping, especially if you have had a biopsy, this is normal)
    • Fever or chills

    Foul smelling vaginal discharge

Published On: September 23, 2008