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Cervical ectropion (cervical erosion)

What is cervical ectropion?

Cervical ectropion is common and harmless. It is not linked to cervical cancer or any other condition that causes cancer.

Cervical ectropion happens when cells from inside the cervical canal (glandular cells) are present on the outside surface of the cervix (the transformation zone). Glandular cells are red, so the area may look red. 

The cervix 

The picture shows the cervical canal, the cervix and the vagina. It has a label pointing to the transformation zone at the bottom of the cervix, which is where a cervical ectropion usually happens.

If you have cervical ectropion, your nurse can usually see it during cervical screening (a smear test). In the past, you might have heard it called cervical erosion, but it is now called cervical ectropion or cervical eversion.

How do you get cervical ectropion?

A lot of people are born with cervical ectropion, but it can be caused by hormonal changes. This means you are more likely to have it if you are:

  • younger
  • going through puberty
  • pregnant
  • taking the contraceptive pill.

Symptoms of cervical ectropion

Cervical ectropion does not cause any problems for most women. It usually goes away without treatment.

However, cells from inside the cervical canal bleed more easily and can produce more mucus than cells on the outside. This means cervical ectropion may cause:

  • spotting (light bleeding), discharge, or pain during or after sex
  • pain or spotting during or after cervical screening.

If any of these symptoms cause problems for you, there are treatments that may help. If you take the contraceptive pill, sometimes switching to a different contraception can help manage a cervical ectropion. Your GP can talk this through with you and refer you for further treatment if needed.

Treating cervical ectropion

If you choose to have treatment, it will usually be at a colposcopy clinic. Treatment seals the glandular cells to stop any bleeding. This is called cautery.

There are 3 treatment options:

  • The first option uses an electric current (diathermy) to cauterise the top layer of the cervix. It is done under local anaesthetic. This is the most common method used.
  • The second option is called cryocautery. It uses a cold spray to cauterise the glandular cells. You will not usually need a local anaesthetic.
  • The last option uses silver nitrate to cauterise the glandular cells. You will not usually need a local anaesthetic.

After treatment

After these treatments, you may have some bleeding or discharge. You may also feel some pain similar to being on your period. It usually takes about 4 weeks to heal after treatment. Don't use tampons or have penetrative sex during this time to avoid the risk of infection.

Problems after treatment aren't common, but speak with your GP if you have:

  • severe pain that does not go away after using pain killers
  • heavy bleeding
  • vaginal discharge that smells bad.

If you have problems we don't mention here or are worried about something else, call us on 0808 802 8000.

Remember, sometimes treatment does not get rid of the symptoms or only gets rid of them for a short time. If cervical ectropion is still bothering you after treatment, speak with your GP.

More information and support

Do you have questions about cervical ectropion? Use our Ask the Expert service or call our free Helpline on 0808 802 8000 for more support.

Show references

  1. Casey PM et al., Abnormal Cervical Appearance: What to Do, When to Worry?, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2011.
  2. Hua X et al., Using platelet‐rich plasma for the treatment of symptomatic cervical ectopy, International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 2012.
  3. Çekmez Y et al., Is Cryotherapy Friend or Foe for Symptomatic Cervical Ectopy?, Medical Principles and Practice, 2016.

 

 

Date last updated: 
06 Jul 2018
Date due for review: 
06 Jul 2021

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