How To Prepare continued...
You may want to take a pain reliever, such as ibuprofen (Advil or
Motrin), 30 to 60 minutes before having a colposcopy, especially if a biopsy
may be done. This can help decrease any cramping pain that can be caused by the
Schedule your colposcopy for when you are not having your period. Heavy bleeding makes it harder for your doctor to see your cervix. The best
time to schedule a colposcopy is during the early part of your
menstrual cycle, 8 to 12 days after the start of your
last menstrual period.
You will be asked to sign a consent form that says you understand the risks of the test and agree to have it done.
Talk to your doctor
about any concerns you have regarding the need for the colposcopy, its risks,
how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the
importance of this test, fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
How It Is Done
Colposcopy is usually done by a
family medicine physician, or a nurse practitioner who has been trained to do the
test. If a biopsy is done, the sample will be looked at by a
pathologist. Colposcopy can be done in your doctor's
You will need to take off your clothes below the waist. You will be
given a covering to drape around your waist. You will then lie on your back on
an examination table with your feet raised and supported by foot rests
The doctor will insert a lubricated tool called a speculum into your vagina. The speculum gently spreads apart the vaginal
walls so your doctor can see inside the vagina and the cervix.
The colposcope is moved near your vagina, and your doctor looks
through the microscope at the vagina and cervix. Vinegar (acetic acid) or
iodine (Lugol's solution) may be used on your cervix to make abnormal areas
more visible. Photographs or videos of the vagina and cervix may be
If areas of abnormal tissue are found on the cervix, your doctor
will take a small sample (cervical biopsy) of the tissue. Usually
several samples are taken. The samples are looked at under a microscope for
changes in the cells that may mean cancer may be present or is likely to
develop. If bleeding occurs, a special liquid (Monsel's) or silver nitrate swab
may be used on the biopsy area to stop the bleeding.
If a sample of tissue is needed from inside the opening of the
cervix (the endocervical canal), a test called endocervical curettage (ECC)
will be done. Since the endocervical canal cannot be seen by the colposcope, a
small sharp-edged tool called a curette is gently put into the endocervical
canal to take a sample. ECC takes less than a minute to do and may cause mild
cramping. An ECC is not done during pregnancy.
Colposcopy and a cervical biopsy usually take about 15