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Colposcopy - directed biopsy

Contents of this page:


Female reproductive anatomy
Female reproductive anatomy
Colposcopy-directed biopsy
Colposcopy-directed biopsy

Alternative Names    Return to top

Biopsy - colposcopy-directed

Definition    Return to top

A colposcopy-directed biopsy uses a low-powered microscope called a colposcope to help view the surface of the cervix and show abnormalities.

How the Test is Performed    Return to top

You will lie on a table and place your feet in stirrups to position your pelvis for examination. The health care provider will insert an instrument (speculum) into your vagina to open the vaginal canal and examine the cervix.

The cervix is then swabbed with a chemical solution (acetic acid) to remove the mucus that covers the surface, and to highlight abnormal areas. The health care provider will place the colposcope at the opening of the vagina, and examine the area. Photographs may be taken.

If any areas look abnormal, a small sample of the tissue will be removed (biopsy) using small biopsy forceps. Many samples may be taken, depending on the size of the area.

How to Prepare for the Test    Return to top

There is no special preparation. You may be more comfortable if you empty your bladder and bowel before the procedure. You should not douche or have sexual intercourse for 24 hours before the exam.

How the Test Will Feel    Return to top

A colposcopy is painless. Some women feel a slight sting from the vinegar solution. The biopsy may feel like a pinch each time a tissue sample is taken. You may have some cramping after the biopsy.

It is typical for women to hold their breath during pelvic procedures because they expect pain. Concentrating on slow, regular breathing will help you relax and help relieve pain.

Why the Test is Performed    Return to top

This procedure is usually done after a positive Pap smear to identify the abnormality.

Normal Results    Return to top

A smooth, pink surface of the cervix is normal. A biopsy is only done when the health care provider sees or suspects abnormal tissues because of abnormal Pap smear results.

What Abnormal Results Mean    Return to top

Abnormal results may indicate:

The colposcopy may be used to keep track of precancer and look for abnormalities that come back after treatment.

Abnormal findings during a colposcopy include:

Any of these problems may be signs of cancerous changes.

The test also may be done if an abnormal Pap smear shows signs of cervical dysplasia.

Risks    Return to top

After the biopsy, you may have some bleeding for up to a week. To allow the biopsy area to heal, for 2 weeks avoid:

Call your health care provider:

Considerations    Return to top

If the colposcopy or biopsy does not show why the Pap smear was abnormal, your health care provider may suggest that you have a more extensive biopsy.

See also: Cold knife cone biopsy

References    Return to top

Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby; 2007.

Update Date: 2/19/2008

Updated by: Peter Chen, MD, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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