A colposcopy is used to diagnose cervical cancer, according to Mayo Clinic. In addition, doctors may use it to look for genital warts or to determine whether a woman has high-risk human papilloma virus (HPV).
A colposcopy involves examining the cervix closely to look for cervical diseases, Mayo Clinic claims. This includes looking for abnormal cell changes, which can indicate a risk or presence of cervical cancer. Some women may have a biopsy following this test to identify the presence of cancer. Sometimes, this test follows an abnormal pap smear, WebMD highlights. During the examination, doctors can also look for genital warts on the cervix or around the vagina, they can examine issues seen on previous colposcopies or they can see if the patient has a high-risk form of HPV that is more likely to lead to cancer than other types.
Doctors perform colposcopies using a magnifying device that allows them to closely examine the cervix, vagina and vulva, according to WebMD. Using magnifying glasses, doctors can see cervical changes that the naked eye cannot. Women preparing for this examination should inform their doctor if they are pregnant, and they should discuss stopping certain medications, including aspirin. In addition, it is advisable to inform doctors of previous vaginal or pelvic infections prior to this procedure.