Colposcopy is a medical procedure using a specially-designed microscope called a colposcope designed to carefully examine the cervix, vagina, and vulva for signs of disease that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Pap smears are screening tools designed to pick up early signs of abnormal cells coming from the cervix or vagina. Colposcopy is a diagnostic tool designed to further evaluate the cervix, vagina, and vulva under magnification.

The procedure is usually performed after an abnormal Pap smear to help further evaluate the severity of the abnormality. If any areas look abnormal, a small sample of tissue may be removed (biopsy) using small biopsy forceps. After the tissue biopsy is obtained, it is sent to pathology for more accurate and in-depth evaluation.

While colposcopy is done most often to evaluate abnormal Pap smears, it may also be used to further evaluate other problems such as genital warts of the vulva, vagina, and cervix, inflammation of the cervix, benign conditions such as polyps, and abnormal bleeding.