Colposcopy is an examination to take a closer look at your cervix. A colposcopy is often done if cervical screening finds changes to your cells that are caused by high-risk HPV.
The person who does the examination is called a colposcopist and may be a doctor or a nurse.
They use a colposcope, which looks like a pair of binoculars on a stand, with a bright light. The colposcope does not go inside you.
The colposcopist will apply some solution to your cervix, to show any changes. This may cause a slight stinging sensation.
A small sample of cells may be taken from your cervix for testing. This is called a biopsy.
If you have a biopsy taken, you are usually advised not to do the following for seven days:
The colposcopist will telephone or write to you with the results. They will tell you if you need any treatment or further appointments.
If you do not need to be seen again, you will be told when you should have your next cervical screening (smear) test.
For further information, you can read our leaflet Your Colposcopy Clinic Appointment.
Cell changes sometimes need to be treated to stop them developing into cervical cancer.
The most common cell changes in the cervix are called Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CIN). These are graded as CIN 1 (mild), CIN 2 (moderate) or CIN 3 (severe).
Some people may have a type of cell change called Cervical Glandular Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CGIN). This is not usually graded.
CIN 1 does not usually need treatment, as these changes normally go away on their own. You can usually just have a follow-up cervical screening (smear) test at your doctor's surgery or sexual health clinic.
CIN 2, CIN 3 and CGIN are usually treated.
You will be told about the types of treatment available and will be given the opportunity to discuss which one is the best for you.
Treatment is not usually done if you are pregnant but it is still important that you attend clinic appointments when advised to do so.
Types of treatment are:
Individuals aged 30 and under who have CIN 2 can be offered treatment or surveillance (this means having regular checks in the colposcopy clinic). This is because the cell changes often go back to normal on their own. If the cell changes do not improve, or develop into a higher-grade change, treatment will be offered.
Individuals aged over 30 years with CIN 2 should be offered treatment.
Everyone with CIN 3 and CGIN is offered treatment.
Treatments are normally done in the colposcopy clinic while you are awake. Some local anaesthetic is injected into the cervix to make it numb.
Sometimes treatment is done under a general anaesthetic, if your colposcopist feels that the area would be difficult to treat whilst you are awake.
If you have treatment, you will be advised not to:
For further information, see Your Colposcopy Appointment leaflet.
Being diagnosed with any sort of cancer is frightening. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust has a lot of information and support available.
Some very early cervical cancers can be treated in the colposcopy clinic. However, the colposcopist may recommend further investigation and will refer you to a cancer specialist.
If you live in Wales and you are diagnosed with cervical cancer, Cervical Screening Wales will look at your screening history. This means looking at:
If there are any results for us to review, we will let the doctors looking after you know when the review has finished.
If you would like to know the results of your review, you can let us know. We will arrange a meeting to let you know the results and to answer any other questions you may have.
If you would like any more information, you might find our leaflet ‘Review of your cervical screening history’ useful.