What to Expect

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Colposcopy is a diagnostic test used to evaluate an area of abnormal tissue on the cervix, vagina, or vulva.

Your doctor will use a piece of equipment that looks like a pair of binoculars on a stand called a colposcope. It magnifies tissue so a physician can see abnormalities that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

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

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

What to expect

  • Colposcopy is usually done in a doctor's office and the procedure typically takes 10 to 20 minutes.
  • You'll lie on your back on a table with your feet in supports, just as during a pelvic exam or Pap test.
  • The doctor places a metal speculum in your vagina. The speculum holds open the walls of your vagina so your doctor can see your cervix.
  • Your cervix and vagina are swabbed with cotton to clear away any mucus. Your doctor may apply a solution of vinegar or another type of solution to the area. This may cause a burning or tingling sensation. The solution helps highlight any areas of suspicious cells.
  • Your doctor positions the colposcope, a few inches away from your vagina. A bright light is shown into your vagina and your doctor looks through the lens of the colposcope, as if using binoculars. The cells of your cervix are magnified so that your doctor can identify any abnormal cells.