What is colposcopy?

Colposcopy is an examination of the cervix (lower part of the uterus) and the wall of the vagina. It is performed using a special microscope, called a colposcope, that gives a magnified view of tissue lining the cervix and vagina.

Unlike a Pap test, which scrapes tissue from the entire cervix, colposcopy allows the examiner to take tissue samples (biopsies) from specific areas that do not look normal.

Do I need colposcopy?

Colposcopy is recommended for women who:

  • Have had abnormal Pap test results
  • Have a positive HPV test (human papillomavirus)

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/11/2019.


  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. FAQ: Colposcopy. Accessed 4/12/2019.
  • Planned Parenthood®. What is a Colposcopy. Accessed 4/12/2019.
  • Hoffman BL, Schorge JO, Schaffer JI, Halvorson LM, Bradshaw KD, Cunningham FG, Calver LE. Chapter 30. Cervical Cancer. Williams Gynecology. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2012. Accessed 4/12/2019.
  • American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology. Colposcopy Guidelines. Accessed 4/12/2019.

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