What is a colposcopy?

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[.highlighted] Q: Dear Teal, [.highlighted] I recently had an abnormal pap smear and was told I should get a colposcopy. I don't really understand what it is. Can you explain it?

A: If, after your Pap smear, your results are abnormal (learn more about that here), your doctor will require you to have further testing. That next step might be a colposcopy.

The procedure may look and feel similar to a Pap smear, although this time, your doctor will use a magnifying lens to look for abnormal cells on your cervix.

Your doctor will swipe the area with acetic acid, which turns abnormal areas white. Once the abnormal cells are identified, your doctor may take a small amount of tissue (a biopsy) for testing. These cells will then be sent to a lab for analysis. Depending on the result, you may need a procedure to remove the abnormal cells or just more frequent Pap smear/HPV testing to monitor changes.

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Liz Swenson, MD
Medical Director

Liz Swenson is a board-certified OB/GYN who has been providing care to women for more than 20 years. She has learned that women are genuinely interested in their own health and want to understand the science behind their medical conditions. Originally from Iowa, she completed her medical training in Northern California where she still lives with her husband and two daughters. She has worked in a busy multispecialty practice in Palo Alto and has taught OBGYN residents as an Adjunct Clinical Faculty Member of Stanford University. Now, with a focus on helping all women have choices and access to the gynecological care they need, she is excited to use her clinical experience to help improve the lives and longevity of all Teal patients.