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Colposcopy is a gynecological procedure that illuminates and magnifies the vulva, vaginal walls, and uterine cervix in order to detect and examine abnormalities of these structures. The cervix is the base of the womb (uterus) and leads out to the birth canal (vagina). During colposcopy, special tests [acetic acid wash, use of color filters, and sampling (biopsy) of tissues] can be done. Colposcopy is not to be confused with culdoscopy, which is the insertion of an instrument through the wall of the vagina in order to view the pelvic area behind the vagina.

Finally, colposcopy allows tissue sampling (biopsy) that is targeted to the abnormal areas. In fact, the biopsy of abnormal areas is a critical part of colposcopy because treatment will depend on how severe the abnormality is on the biopsy sample. After colposcopy and biopsies, a chemical is applied to the biopsy area to prevent bleeding (spotting). As part of the biopsy procedure, endocervical curettage (sampling of the tissues within the endocervical canal, or the opening of the cervix to the uterine cavity) is often performed.