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Colposcopy is a procedure to closely examine your cervix, vagina and vulva for signs of any disease. During colposcopy, the doctor uses a special instrument called a colposcope.

The doctor may recommend colposcopy if your Pap Smear test has shown abnormal results. If the doctor finds an unusual area of cells during colposcopy, a sample of tissue can be collected for laboratory testing (biopsy).

Many women experience anxiety before their colposcopy exams. Knowing what to expect during your colposcopy may help you feel more comfortable.

Reasons for colposcopy

The doctor may recommend colposcopy if a Pap Smear test or pelvic exam revealed abnormalities.

Colposcopy can be used to diagnose:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Genital warts
  • Inflammation of the cervix (cervicitis)
  • Precancerous changes in the tissue of the cervix
  • Precancerous changes in the tissue of the vagina
  • Precancerous changes of the vulva
  • Vaginal cancer
  • Vulvar cancer

Preparation for your procedure

To prepare for your colposcopy, the doctor may recommend that you:

  • Avoid scheduling your colposcopy during your period.
  • Don't have vaginal intercourse the day or two before your colposcopy.
  • Don't use tampons the day or two before your colposcopy.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen before going to your colposcopy appointment.


Colposcope is a microscope that resembles a pair of binoculars. The instrument has a range of magnification lenses. It also has colour filters that allow the physician to detect tiny abnormal blood vessels on the cervix. The colposcope is used to examine the vaginal walls and cervix through the vaginal opening.

  • The first step of the procedure is examining the vulva and vagina for signs of genital warts or other growths. (Genital Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer).
  • The cervix is inspected and the special tests are done. A scraping may be taken from the cervix canal.
  • 1 – 3 tiny biopsies will be taken to find why the Pap Smear was abnormal.
  • Colposcopy is a safe procedure with no complications other than vaginal spotting of blood.

When to call your doctor

  • Bleeding that is heavier than what you typically experience during your period.
  • Severe abdominal pain.

Call your doctor if you experience any of these signs and symptoms after your colposcopy.

After the colposcopy

If your doctor didn't take a biopsy sample during your colposcopy, you won't have any restrictions on your activity once your exam is complete. You may experience some spotting or very light bleeding from your vagina in the next day or two.

If you had a biopsy sample taken during your colposcopy, you may experience:

  • Vaginal or vulvar pain that lasts one or two days.
  • Light bleeding from your vagina that lasts a few days.
  • A dark discharge from your vagina.

Use a pad to catch any blood or discharge. Avoid tampons, douching and having vaginal intercourse for a week after your biopsy.