Colposcopy and Cervical Biopsy
How It Is Done
Colposcopy is usually done by a Reference gynecologist Opens New Window, a Reference family medicine physician Opens New Window, or a Reference nurse practitioner Opens New Window who has been trained to do the test. If a biopsy is done, the sample will be looked at by a Reference pathologist Opens New Window. 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 called a Reference speculum Opens New Window into your vagina. The speculum gently spreads apart the vaginal walls so your doctor can see inside the vagina and the cervix. See a picture of a Reference pelvic examination with a speculum Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window.
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 (Reference cervical biopsy Opens New Window) 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.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference October 22, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Reference Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology