You will lie on your back with your feet in stirrups. As in a regular pelvic examination, an instrument (speculum) will hold the vaginal canal open for the doctor to look inside. It will be inserted into the vagina and opened slightly so that the cervix is visible.
The health care provider will place a small low-power microscope (colposcope) at the opening of the vagina and cervix to examine the area. The colposcope magnifies the surface of the vagina and cervix.
The cervix is swabbed with a vinegar solution (acetic acid), which removes the mucus to help highlight abnormal areas. Photographs may be taken.
Another method is the Schiller's test, which uses an iodine solution to stain the cervix. The stain is inserted through the speculum. The iodine solution stains the normal portions of the cervix, but does not stain abnormal tissues.
If the health care provider finds abnormal tissue, a sample (biopsy) may be taken using a small biopsy forceps or large needle. More than one sample may be taken.
Cells from the cervical canal may be used as samples as well. This is called an endocervical curettage or biopsy (ECC), and it may further help find abnormal cervical cells. When the procedure is done, the health care provider will remove all of the instruments.