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Colposcopy and Cervical Biopsy

How It Feels

You may feel some discomfort when the vaginal speculum is inserted. You may feel a pinch and have some cramping if a biopsy sample is taken.

Risks

In rare cases, a cervical biopsy can cause an infection or bleeding. Bleeding can usually be stopped by using a special liquid or swab on the area.

After the test

If you have a biopsy, you may feel some soreness in your vagina for a day or two. Some vaginal bleeding or discharge is normal for up to a week after a biopsy. The discharge may be dark-colored if Monsel's solution was used. You can use a sanitary pad for the bleeding. Do not douche, have sex, or use tampons for one week, to allow time for your cervix to heal. Do not exercise for 1 day after your colposcopy.

Follow any instructions your doctor gave you. Call your doctor if you have:

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding (more than a normal menstrual period).
  • A fever.
  • Belly pain.
  • Bad-smelling vaginal discharge.

Results

Colposcopy is a way for your doctor to use a special magnifying device to look at your vulva, vagina camera.gif, and cervix.

Your doctor will talk to you about what he or she sees at the time of the colposcopy. Lab results from a biopsy may take several days or more.

Colposcopy and cervical biopsy
Normal:

The vinegar or iodine does not show any areas of abnormal tissue. The vagina and cervix look normal.

A biopsy sample does not show any abnormal cells.

Abnormal:

The vinegar or iodine shows areas of abnormal tissue. Sores or other problems, such as genital warts or an infection, are found in or around the vagina or cervix.

A biopsy sample shows abnormal cells. This may mean cervical cancer is present or likely to develop.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the colposcopy or why the results may not be helpful include:

  • If you have sexual intercourse 24 hours before the colposcopy.
  • The use of douches, tampons, or vaginal creams or medicines 24 hours before the colposcopy.
  • If you are having a menstrual period at the time of the colposcopy.
  • If a vaginal or cervical infection is present.
  • If you have gone through menopause. Hormonal changes may make it hard to see the cervical canal clearly.

What To Think About

  • Colposcopy is not usually used as a screening test for women at high risk for cervical cancer. A Pap test is done for that purpose. But a colposcopy gives you and your doctor more information if you have an abnormal result from a Pap test.
  • If a colposcopy and cervical biopsy are normal, it is not likely that you have cell changes that can lead to cervical cancer. But your doctor may still want you to have Pap tests more often for a period of time.
  • Another biopsy may be needed if a Pap test, colposcopy, and cervical biopsy show different results.
  • Women with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) have a higher chance of developing cervical cancer. A colposcopy is usually recommended for women with HIV and an abnormal Pap test.

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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