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Colposcopy is an easy office procedure that allows the practitioner to see the surface of the cervix with greater clarity than can be achieved just by looking with the naked eye. It utilizes an instrument called a colposcope which looks like and performs like a pair of binoculars to magnify the cervix.

Having colposcopy done is just like having a routine pelvic exam done, except that the practitioner looks through the colposcope. The instrument does not touch the body.

Why is colposcopy done?

Most commonly, colposcopy is recommended when a Pap smear shows some changes. This is to obtain more information on what such changes represent and how extensive they are so that appropriate follow-up may be planned.

Having an abnormal Pap smear can feel scary, but it’s important to note that the majority of abnormal Paps are not cancer. The real value of Pap smears is that they can identify pre-cancerous changes long before invasive cancer develops. Pap smears and colposcopy are two tests that give complementary information and are used hand-in-hand as a preventative measure to keep healthy people healthy.

What if the colposcopy shows abnormalities?

Your practitioner will look at the cervix carefully, concentrating on a portion known as the squamo-columnar junction, which is where the two types of cells of the cervix meet. If changes occur, they are most likely to arise in this area.

A small amount of a dilute vinegar solution is applied to the cervix to aid in differentiating the cell types and making abnormal areas more easily visible.

If there are abnormal areas seen, the location and extent of the areas is considered, along with the Pap smear findings, and then a decision can be made as to whether further attention is necessary. Sometimes just re-doing the Pap smear at yearly or more frequent intervals is all that is necessary, and sometimes further assessment with biopsies is helpful.

Preparations for colposcopy

Schedule your appointment when you are not menstruating. Do not douche, use tampons, use vaginal medication, or have intercourse for 2 days prior to your appointment. Inform us if you faint easily or bleed readily.