Colposcopy: Frequently Asked Questions


I have had an abnormal pap smear and my doctor has referred me for colposcopy.



What is colposcopy?


Colposcopy is the method gynecologists use to perform a detailed exam of the cervix. It is indicated when there is a suspicion of abnormal cells on the cervix.  For more information about the Colposcopy probram in BC please visit the colposcopy website published by the BCCA



What does the exam involve?


The entire examination itself takes about 10 minutes (plus waiting / admission time). You will arrive at your appointment and be asked routine intake questions by clinic staff. There will be a registered nurse and a colposcopy doctor in the examining room. There is also a video projection of the exam; you may choose to watch if this interests you.


The colposcopy doctor will start with a speculum exam to locate the cervix (similar to the beginning of a pap smear).  Solutions are then applied to the cervix, including dilute acetic acid and/or an iodine solution. These solutions help the doctor to see abnormal areas on the cervix. Once the doctor identifies an area that requires sampling, a small biopsy is taken. This is usually mildly uncomfortable. The doctor may also have to take a sampling of the inside of the cervix. This often produces a mild to moderate cramping sensation. In certain cases, the doctor will need to perform a sampling of the womb (endometrial biopsy).


The samples from the exam are then sent to the pathologists, who examine the tissue samples using a microscope.  A final report is then constructed based on the findings at the time of the colposcopy exam and the pathology results.



How do I get the results of my exam?


You will need to book a follow-up appointment with your family doctor or referring practitioner after the colposcopy exam. This is critical as there may be recommendations for future follow-up. The colposcopy doctors do not generally contact you personally with the results.



Can the doctor also renew my birth control and take swabs for STIs?


While these are important issues, the colposcopy doctor is not able to attend to other gynecologic concerns at the time of the colposcopy exam. You must speak with a primary care provider to have these issues addressed.



Should I cancel the exam if I’m menstruating?


No. Only in rare cases of very heavy bleeding will it be impossible to perform the exam. Menstruation is generally not a problem.



Should I cancel the exam if I’m pregnant?


No. Colposcopy can be safely performed in pregnancy. It is critical that you tell your care provider if you are or think you may be pregnant as it limits the sampling we can perform at the time of the colposcopy exam.



I have recently moved into this area, and my last doctor said I need a colposcopy exam in the future. What do I do?


Please see a local family physician or walk in clinic as soon as you are able. That physician can refer you on to the local colposcopy clinic. If you are able, please submit a copy of your medical records pertaining to this issue. If you do not have these records, please provide the contact information of the physician who recommended the colposcopy exam. This will help us to determine the nature of your condition and the appropriate timing of follow-up.



At my colposcopy exam, the doctor mentioned the HPV Vaccine.  Where can I get more information about this?


HPV info


HPV Vaccine



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