A cervical biopsy involves the removal of a small sample of tissue from the
cervix. The cervix is the lowest part of the uterus and contains the opening
from the uterus to the vagina. The tissue sample is called a biopsy.
Who is a candidate for the procedure?
A cervical biopsy is done to detect cancer of the cervix or precancerous changes. A
cervical biopsy is usually done after a woman has abnormal results from a
smear that is done as part of a
pelvic examination. A Pap smear is a test in which the provider
uses a small spatula and a brush to gently scrape cells from the woman's
cervix. These cells are sent to a lab for testing. The Pap smear may show
early, abnormal, cancer-like changes in the cervix cells.
A colposcopy is an
examination of the surface of the cervix through a magnifying scope. A woman
should have a colposcopy, as well as a cervical biopsy, if one of the following conditions applies:
She has 2 consecutive abnormal Pap
She has a suspicious-looking lesion on the cervix or vagina, with or
without an abnormal Pap smear.
Her Pap smear suggests the presence of human papilloma virus
or HPV. This virus can cause genital warts and is linked to the
development of cervical
She has extensive genital warts on her vulva, which are the lips at the
opening of the vagina.
She was exposed to DES, or diethylstilbestrol, in her mother's uterus.
Diethylstilbestrol, a potent medication to prevent miscarriages,
has been associated with abnormal changes in the cervix of women exposed as
She has had one abnormal Pap smear that suggested moderately abnormal
tissue growth or more severely abnormal cells.
If necessary, a healthcare provider may safely perform a cervical biopsy on
pregnant women. Usually,
providers wait to take a cervical biopsy until after the delivery.
How is the procedure performed?
A cervical biopsy is done with the woman lying on her back with her feet in
stirrups. The healthcare provider places a speculum inside the woman's vagina.
This instrument helps enlarge the opening of the vagina, which allows the
provider to see the cervix and vaginal interior.
The healthcare provider uses a
colposcope to magnify and examine the cervix and vagina. To make
cells more visible under the colposcope, the provider puts a mild solution of
vinegar on the area. Sometimes the healthcare provider also uses a solution of
Then, the healthcare provider takes small bits of tissue, or a biopsy, from
suspicious areas. The technique is called cervical punch biopsy. The woman may
feel a brief pinch or cramp. The healthcare provider records the location of
the abnormal areas and sends the tissue sample or samples to be viewed under a