A colposcopy is a simple procedureused to look at the cervix, the lower partof the wombat thetop of the vagina.It's oftendone if Smear test finds abnormal cells in your cervix.

These cellsaren't harmfuland often go away on their own, but sometimes there's a risk they could eventually turn into cervical cancer if not treated.

A colposcopycan confirm whether cells in your cervix are abnormal and determine whether you need treatment to remove them.

This page covers:

Whena colposcopymay be needed

What happens

Your result

Treatments to remove abnormal cells

When a colposcopy maybeneeded

You may be referred for acolposcopy within a few weeks ofcervical screening if:

  • some of the cells in your screening sample are abnormal
  • the nurse or doctor who carried outthe screening test thought your cervix didn't look as healthy as it should
  • it wasn't possible to give you a clear result after several screening tests

A colposcopy can also be used tofind out the cause ofproblems such as unusual vaginal bleeding (for example, bleedingafter sex ).

Try not to worry if you've been referred for a colposcopy. It's very unlikely you havecancer and any abnormal cells won't get worse while you're waiting for your appointment.

What happens during a colposcopy

A colposcopy is usually carried out in a hospital clinic. It takes about 15-20 minutesand you can go home the same day.

During the procedure:

  • you undress from the waist down (a loose skirt may not need to be removed) andlie down in a special type of chair with padded supports for your legs
  • adevice called a speculum is inserted into your vagina and gently opened
  • amicroscope with a light is used to look at your cervix this doesn't touch or enteryour body
  • special liquids are applied toyour cervix to highlightany abnormal areas
  • a small sample of tissue(a biopsy ) may be removed for closer examination in a laboratory this may be a bit uncomfortable

If it'sobvious that you have abnormal cells in your cervix, you may have treatment to remove the cells immediately. Ifthis isn't clear, you'llneed to wait until you get your biopsy results .

But if youhad a biopsy, it may take up to four to eight weeks to get your results in the post.

The result of your colposcopy and/or biopsy will be either:

  • normal about 4 out of 10 women have no abnormal cells and are advised to continue attending cervical screening as usual
  • abnormalabout 6 out of 10 women have abnormal cells in their cervix and may need treatment to remove them

Your doctor or nurse may usethe term CIN or CGIN when discussing your biopsy result. This is this medical name for abnormal cells.

It's followed by a number (for example, CIN 1) that indicates the chances of the cells becoming cancerous. A higher number means a higher risk of cancer developing if the cells aren't removed.

You can go home the same day.

A cone biopsy is usually done under general anaesthetic (where you're asleep) and you may need to stay in hospital overnight.


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 16 Jan 2017