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Colposcopy and Cervical Biopsy

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One of the common cancers affecting women is cervical cancer. All women are advised to get a PAP smear done regularly in order to detect cervical cancer as early as possible. When one undergoes PAP smear and the results are found to be abnormal, the doctor advises a test called colposcopy. During this test, the doctor may also carry out cervical biopsy.

What is Colposcopy?

Colposcopy is a medical procedure that is carried out to view the cervix of a woman. The cervix is the organ that is present at the entrance of the uterus and towards the upper side of the vagina. When the doctor suspects abnormal cells are present in the cervix, he/she will carry out colposcopy along with cervical biopsy at times.

During the procedure, a magnifying lens is used that helps give a clear view of the cervix. There are special binoculars attached to a rolling stand that helps the doctor detect abnormal cells. If necessary, cell biopsy will be carried out for further testing.

Why is Colposcopy Required?

Colposcopy is required when the doctor suspects abnormally growing cells in the cervix. Some situations where colposcopy is called for include:

  • When the cervix appears abnormal during a gynecological examination.
  • To observe more of the genital warts or sores in and around the cervix or vagina.
  • To understand the cause of abnormal or unexplained bleeding.
  • Abnormal PAP smear test, requires further investigation with the help of colposcopy.
  • To detect areas in cervix in case of the positive HPV test.

What is Cervical Biospy?

During colposcopy when the doctor detects or suspects abnormal cells, he/she may take a small sample of tissue. This tissue or cell sample is sent to the lab for further tests. This is called a biopsy. At times, one may have to undergo more than one biopsy for proper detection of her condition.

How Do I Prepare for The Colposcopy?

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It is very easy to prepare for a colposcopy. All you need to do is remember the following points:

  • Make sure you schedule your appointment during the days when you are not menstruating or are not expecting your menses. Bleeding makes it difficult for the doctor to view the cervix.
  • If you suspect pregnancy, make sure you speak to your doctor about it. A urine or blood test may help confirm pregnancy.
  • If you are pregnant, it will be better to defer the procedure for the time being. However, if necessary, you may undergo the test. The procedure will not harm pregnancy, but may lead to more bleeding due to the biopsy. Thus, make sure you discuss with your doctor about all the risks involved related to colposcopy during pregnancy.
  • Tell your doctors about any kind of allergy you may have, if you are on some medications as well as any treatment you may take for a pelvic, cervical or vaginal infection.
  • Do not have sexual intercourse the 24 hours before the test. Also do not use any vaginal creams or gels.
  • Avoid using tampons, douches, etc. in the vagina 24 hours before the test.
  • Take a pain reliever about half and hour or an hour before the test. This will help reduce the pain and cramping after the test.

How is Colposcopy and Cervical Biospy Performed?

Colposcopy and cervical biopsy are both simple procedures. These tests do not require the patient to be given any kind of sedation or anesthetic. Hospitalization is also not necessary. Let us see how colposcopy is carried out, followed by a cervical biopsy procedure.


  • The patient is asked to lie down on an examination table with the feet raised. Stirrups are used to help support the feet.
  • The lady is asked to remove all her clothes from waist down and cover herself with a drape.
  • Then, a smooth plastic or metal speculum is inserted into the vagina. This helps separate the walls and one may feel some pressure in the vagina.
  • Using a vinegar, or iodine solution, the doctor will swab the cervix. This helps give the doctor a clear view of the abnormal cells.
  • With the help of the colposcope, the doctor will view the cervix and vaginal area. Do not worry, as the instrument is kept outside the body and nothing foreign other than the speculum will be inserted into your vaginal or cervix.

Cervical Biospy

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  • Cervical biopsy is also called as a punch biopsy as the instrument used looks like a paper punch.
  • The doctor will remove a small, tiny piece of tissue from the cervix.
  • The doctor may scrape cells with the help of a small brush or metal loop called curette for cell sample.
  • The tissue or cells collected are sent to the lab for further tests and results.

The overall procedure of colposcopy along with cervical biopsy takes about 10 minutes to maximum 15 minutes. This is not a painful procedure. If at all, one may feel a bit of stinging or burning sensation on application of the vinegar or iodine solution. A biopsy may cause a little pinch like sensation or feel like a menstrual cramp.

What Happens After the Procedure?

After the procedure one may feel soreness in her vagina. In case of biopsy, one may pass a dark color discharge for a few days or suffer from dark colored spotting. Thus, use of sanitary napkin is advised. One can indulge in sexual activity as and when one likes after colposcopy. However, one may have to wait for at least 3 days, in case one has undergone cervical biopsy.

Are There Any Risks Related to Colposcopy and Cervical Biospy?

These are very safe methods and rarely does one develop complications. Risks involving this procedure include:

  • Heavy bleeding
  • Fever
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Severe pain in the pelvic region

The test results will be available within a week. In case of abnormal result, the doctor may suggest treatment accordingly. Most of the time, abnormal tests indicate cervical cancer. In case of just the presence of abnormal tissue, biopsy helps remove these cells. Or else other methods such as cryotherapy, laser therapy, etc. are suggested. Speak to your healthcare provider regarding any doubts you may have related to the test. This simple test may prove to be a life saver in many cases.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: February 4, 2015

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