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Colposcopy and Cervical Biopsy

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 colposcopy.

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 gynecologist, 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 office.

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 (stirrups).

The doctor will insert a lubricated tool camera.gif 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 taken.

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 minutes.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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