What is a Colposcopy?

One of the most frightening moments in a woman's life occurs when the gynecologist informs a patient that her Pap smear results are abnormal. Contrary to the belief that an abnormal Pap smear automatically indicates cervical cancer, the fact the majority of abnormal Pap smear results are not caused by cervical cancer. The more common causes of abnormal Pap smear results are inflammation or vaginal infections.

Since the Pap smear is a screening tool and not a diagnostic tool, your gynecologist may want to take a closer look at your cervix to determine the cause of your abnormal Pap smear results. He/She will perform an examination called a colposcopy.

Colposcopy is a simple and painless 10-15 minute procedure performed in a gynecologist's office. You will be positioned identically to how you were positioned for your Pap Smear positioning; an acetic acid (such as common table vinegar) is placed on the cervix. This causes the cervical cells to fill with water so light will not pass through them.

Your physician will use a colposcope to view your cervix. A colposcope is a large, electric microscope that is positioned approximately 30 cm from the vagina. A bright light on the end of the colposcope allows the gynecologist to see the cervix clearly.

During the colposcopy, the gynecologist focuses on the areas of the cervix where light does not pass through. Abnormal cervical changes are seen as white areas -- the whiter the area, the worse the cervical dysplasia. Abnormal vascular (blood vessel) changes are also apparent through the colposcope. Generally, the worst the vascular changes are, the worse the dysplasia. 

If your physician can view the entire abnormal area through the colposcope, a tissue sample or biopsy is taken from the whitest abnormal areas and sent to the lab for further evaluation.  

Indications for Colposcopy

Abnormal Papanicolaou

Vaginal lesion



ASC-US twice


ASC-US with high risk HPV types

Vulvar lesion


Genital warts




Mole concerning for melanoma


Follow-up LEEP, cryotherapy, cone biopsy

Cervical lesion

Intrauterine diethylstilbestrol exposure

Condyloma accuminata

Sexual partner with genital warts or condyloma accuminata


Sexual abuse

Our OBGY Doctor:

Dr. Wendy Yu

For additional information or to schedule an appointment, please call (86-21) 5298 6339

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