Cervical Colposcopy: Indications and Risk Assessment.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

American family physician


The practice of colposcopy, a diagnostic procedure to evaluate for vaginal, vulvar, and cervical dysplasia, has evolved to incorporate patient risk factors for high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) and cancer. Changes in cervical cancer screening and guidelines, human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination recommendations, and colposcopy standards from the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP) have implications for all primary care clinicians, not only those who perform colposcopies. Primary care clinicians should offer HPV vaccination to all patients between the ages of nine and 26, in addition to cervical cancer screening and follow-up guidance. Primary care clinicians should recognize the degrees of risk of high-grade CIN and cancer conferred by cytology, HPV subtype, and persistence of HPV infection. Clinicians should address modifiable risk factors such as tobacco use, and provide counseling to patients about colposcopy based on their individual risks. Clinicians should conduct shared decision-making about immediate loop electrosurgical excision procedure vs. colposcopy with multiple biopsies and endocervical sampling for patients with the highest risk of cervical cancer, and for patients who are older than 25 years with at least two of the following: HPV-16, HPV-18, and high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion cytology. Primary care clinicians should be familiar with the 2019 ASCCP guidelines and develop clinic-based systems to ensure appropriate follow-up of abnormal cytology, positive high-risk HPV testing, diagnosed CIN, and cervical cancer. Patients with an abnormal cervical cancer screening history require surveillance, which differs from routine screening for patients with normal prior screening results. Long-term surveillance is recommended for patients with CIN 2 or worse.

Clinical Institute

Women & Children


Obstetrics & Gynecology


Family Medicine