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Going for colposcopy

If you have received an abnormal cervical screening result or your practice nurse has visually noticed changes on your cervix, you may be invited to attend a colposcopy clinic.

Colposcopy is simply a more detailed look at the cervix. Instead of looking at the cervix with the naked eye, the person performing the colposcopy will use a special microscope to see the changes at high magnification with good lighting. Please don’t worry about how this sounds! The microscope stays outside of your body. All that goes inside is the speculum, which is the instrument your practice nurse or GP used to see your cervix when they were taking your cervical screening. Some clinics may be equipped with video equipment so that you can watch the examination on a monitor if you wish. The examination may take a little longer than a standard cervical screening test, but the colposcopist (a doctor or nurse specifically trained to undertake colposcopy) will talk to you during the examination and tell you what is happening.

Colposcopy/ cervical abnormalities treatment

You should be looked after by staff at a dedicated colposcopy clinic. They will understand that you may be worried and will take time to discuss your screening result before the examination. You will be examined on a purpose-built couch. The cervix is viewed using a speculum (the instrument inserted into the vagina that was also used when you had your cervical screening test done) and then the cervix is examined with the colposcope at low magnification (4–6X). The colposcopist will put a number of different solutions on the cervix and look for changes that indicate the presence or otherwise of changes to the cells. The medical term for cervical changes is cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN). To read more about the tests done at colposcopy, click here.

If you are a Colposcopist, please visit our Information for Colposcopists pages where you will find a wide range of content, best practice guidelines, relevant links for you and your patients, and resources and ways that we can support you. You can also sign up for our quarterly health care professional e-newsletter.

Janette's story

JanetteJanette's describes her experience with colposcopy:

“I was referred for a colposcopy and at the clinic the medical staff were aware of my family history and offered reassurance throughout the procedure, which was very helpful.”

Read more of her story here.


Would you like to get involved with our work by helping us develop and improve our information and services? Visit the pages on our patient feedback group, Jo’s Voices, to see how to get involved.

Date last updated: 
22 Jan 2016
Date due for review: 
26 Jan 2019

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