Colposcopy is a special exam that allows a closer look at your cervix. Your nurse practitioner or other provider may do a colposcopy if you have had abnormal Pap test results. The exam takes 15-30 minutes. It is done in the clinic on a day when you are not having your menstrual period. You’ll need to avoid sexual intercourse and not use cream in your vagina the night before your appointment. During the exam, a special microscope (colposcope) is used to magnify the cervix. This helps your health care provider see any signs of a problem.
You lie on the exam table with your knees bent, just as you do for a pelvic exam. Your nurse practitioner or other health care provider puts a small metal tube (speculum) into the vagina to hold it open. Then a vinegar-like solution is applied to the cervix. This causes any abnormal areas to turn white. You might feel a slight burning or pressure for a few moments. The cervix is then viewed through the coloscope, which is placed just outside the vagina. If there are any abnormal areas on the cervix, a tiny sample of tissue (biopsy) may be taken and sent to the lab for a closer study. Sometimes the area just inside the opening to the cervix cannot be seen clearly. Then, a sample may be gently scraped from the inside of the cervix and sent to the lab.
After your colposcopy, you can return to your normal routine. If tissue was taken from the cervix, you may have some mild cramping or light bleeding for a few days. Taking an anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, should relieve any discomfort.