A colposcopy is very similar to a microscope. It allows for the examination of the external genital area (vulva), vagina and cervix with magnification in order to check for cellular changes, dysplasia and condyloma (genital warts). Colposcopy can help in the early detection of conditions before they become serious. For example, the colposcope can help with the condyloma (genital wart) virus. If left untreated, cells infected with the condyloma (genital wart) virus can progress to pre-cancerous dysplasia. The colposcope is a useful diagnostic tool.
In order to perform a colposcopy, you will be placed in a similar position as for a routine gynecological office exam. A speculum will be inserted. White vinegar will be applied to the cervix (this may sting slightly). This allows for better visualization of abnormal areas on the cervix. The colposcope will be brought to the level of the vagina. The colposcope itself does not touch you. The entire cervical area will be visible to the person performing the colposcopy. An area of particular interest is where the squamous tissue (covers the vagina and the outside of the cervix) and the columnar tissue (covers the inside of the cervix) joins. It is this area where disease most often occurs.
Often, a biopsy may be needed to obtain a more exact diagnosis. Tiny bits of the cervix will be snipped (slight pinching and some cramping may be left) and sent to a laboratory to be examined.
Intercourse, spermicidal jelly, and vagina medications can all interfere with the accuracy of the colposcopy exam. Thus, they should be avoided 24 hours prior to the colposcopy. In addition, colposcopy cannot be performed if you are having your menstrual cycle.