Colposcopy is a diagnostic procedure used to examine, under magnification, certain areas of the body and determine abnormalities. In gynecology, doctors utilize colposcopy to examine the cervix, vagina and vulva in order to detect abnormalities. The most common reason for performing a colposcopy is to further diagnose an abnormal Pap smear. A vulvar colposcopy typically examines lesions on the vulva and is used to identify cancer or genital human papillomavirus, also called HPV.

The procedure is done with a colposcope, a microscope that can help identify malignant lesions on the vulva. It is usually performed as a follow-up to an abnormal pap smear. The exam itself is similar to a pap smear in that a speculum is inserted into the vagina so that the cervix is visible. The colposcope is situated so that the physician may view the area in question with a magnification of 10 to 40 times its normal size. If any abnormal cells are noticed, a biopsy of the tissue may be done.

A colposcopy is a safe procedure with few complications. Light bleeding or discharge for up to a week after the procedure is normal.