Colposcopy is a medical diagnostic procedure to examine an illuminated, magnified view of the cervix and the tissues of the vagina and vulva. Many premalignant lesions and malignant lesions in these areas have discernible characteristics which can be detected through the examination. It is done using a colposcope, which provides an enlarged view of the areas, allowing the colposcopist to visually distinguish normal from abnormal appearing tissue and take directed biopsies for further pathological examination. The main goal of colposcopy is to prevent cervical cancer by detecting precancerous lesions early and treating them. The procedure was developed by the German physician Hans Hinselmann, with help from Eduard Wirths.
Most women undergo a colposcopic examination to further investigate a cytological abnormality on their Pap smears. Other indications for a patient to have a colposcopy include:
assessment of diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure in utero,
immunosuppression such as HIV infection, or an organ transplant patient
an abnormal appearance of the cervix as noted by a primary care provider
as a part of a sexual assault forensic examination done by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner
Many physicians base their current evaluation and treatment decisions on the report "Guide to the Management of Cytological Abnormalities and Cervical Cancer Precursors", created by the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, during a September 2001 conference.
Colposcopy should not be performed for persons treated for cervical cancer if their pap tests show low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion or less.Unless the person has a visible lesion, colposcopy for this population does not detect a recurrence of cancer.