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After treatment for cell changes (abnormal cells)

 

 

After treatment for cell changes (abnormal cells), you may have some side effects. Although these are common, they may worry you, so it can help to prepare by learning more about possible side effects and how to manage them. We hope the information on this page answers any questions or concerns you have about side effects.

We all react and heal differently after treatment, so you may not experience these effects in the way described. If you need some extra support, you may want to get in touch with us as well as your GP.  

Get support > 

Your feelings after treatment 

Having treatment can affect your emotional wellbeing, as well as your body. After treatment, you may be worried about:

  • whether the treatment has worked
  • whether you will go on to develop cervical cancer.

All your concerns, including any we don’t mention here, are valid. Many people feel this way  and it’s important you get the support you need. 

You can talk to your healthcare team, including colposcopist or GP, as well as to support organisations like us:

Pain 

Some people have cramping pain, like a period, after large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ). The pain varies from person to person, but some pain is expected for a day or 2 after treatment. 

If you are in a lot of pain or find it is affecting your day-to-day life, speak with your colposcopist or GP. They can offer reassurance based on your medical history and, if needed, will be able to check you are healing properly. 

Bleeding and changes to vaginal discharge

After treatment, a soft scab forms on the cervix where the cells were removed. While this heals, it may cause bleeding and changes to vaginal discharge. This can last about 4 weeks.

Bleeding

Any bleeding is usually like a slightly heavy period. About 10 days after treatment, the bleeding may get heavier. This is very normal and simply the soft scab healing. 

If the bleeding is very heavy and you are soaking through a sanitary pad every few hours, it is important you go to the hospital straight away. It may not be anything to worry about, but they can check everything is okay and offer the right care.

Your first period (monthly bleeding) after treatment may be slightly heavier or out-of-sync with your regular cycle. 

Changes to vaginal discharge

Straight after treatment, you may have a watery vaginal discharge, and about 10 days after treatment, many women notice a coffee granule-like vaginal discharge. This is very normal and simply the soft scab healing. 

Speak with your GP if your vaginal discharge:

  • smells badly 
  • is a yellow or green colour. 

If you have an infection, your GP may give you antibiotics. 

If you have bleeding and changes to vaginal discharge

Until any bleeding has stopped and vaginal discharge has gone back to normal, your colposcopist may advise you not to:

  • have penetrative sex
  • use tampons 
  • swim. 

If you are unsure what you should or shouldn’t do, ask your colposcopist or GP.

If you get pregnant in the future

If you get pregnant in future, it is important to tell your midwife that you have had LLETZ. They can check if you need a cervical stitch (cerclage) to support your pregnancy. 

Read more about having a cervical stitch >

Follow up after treatment for cell changes (abnormal cells)

Most people have successful treatment and no further problems . A few people may still have cell changes, so may need more treatment. Your follow up appointment is important because it shows whether treatment has been successful. 

Read more about CIN and CGIN > 

What happens at the follow-up appointment for CIN? 

You are invited for your first follow up appointment about 6 months after treatment. It is usually at your GP surgery or the hospital where you had treatment. 

At the appointment, you have a cervical screening test. It is exactly the same as a standard cervical screening appointment. This test is called a ‘test of cure’ because it shows whether treatment has been successful.

The sample of cervical cells is tested for cell changes. 

If you do not have cell changes, or they are low-grade, the same sample will be tested for high-risk HPV:

  • If you have HPV, you will be invited to colposcopy.
  • If you do not have HPV, you will be invited for cervical screening in 3 years, whatever your age.

Read more about HPV > 

If you have high-grade cell changes, you will be invited to colposcopy. 

Read more about what happens at colposcopy > 

The sample of cervical cells is tested for high-risk HPV and cell changes:

  • If you do not have cell changes or high-risk HPV, you are invited back for cervical screening in 3 years, regardless of your age. 
  • If you do not have cell changes but have high-risk HPV, you will be invited to colposcopy. 
  • If you have cell changes, you will be invited to colposcopy.  

Read more about what happens at colposcopy > 

If those colposcopy results are clear, your further follow up appointments depend on what stage of CIN you had:

  • If you were treated for CIN1, you will be invited for cervical screening once a year for 2 years.
  • If you were treated for CIN2 or CIN3, you will be invited for cervical screening once a year for 5 years. 

After this, you can go back to regular cervical screening every 3 or 5 years, depending on your age.

What happens at the follow up appointment for CGIN?

Depending on where you live, there may be a difference in:

  • how the sample of cervical cells is tested 
  • when you are invited for further appointments. 

Read more about CGIN >

Your follow up appointments for CGIN are usually at the hospital where you had treatment. 

You will be invited for 2 follow up appointments:

  • The first appointment will be about 6 months after treatment.
  • The second appointment will be about 18 months after treatment.

At the follow up appointments, you have a cervical screening test. It is exactly the same as a standard cervical screening appointment. The sample of cells is tested for HPV and cell changes: 

  • If both appointments show you do not have HPV or cell changes, you will be invited back for cervical screening in 3 years, whatever your age. Further appointments depend on the result of that test. 
  • If either appointment shows you have HPV or cell changes, you will be invited to colposcopy again. 

If you have questions about your result or when you should be invited for another appointment, speak with your colposcopist or GP. 

Your follow up appointments for CGIN are usually at the hospital where you had treatment. 

At the follow up appointments, you have a cervical screening test. It is exactly the same as a standard cervical screening appointment. The sample of cells is tested for cell changes.

You will be invited for 6 follow up appointments:

  • The first appointment will be about 6 months after treatment. 
  • The second appointment will be about 12 months after treatment. At this appointment, you will also go for colposcopy. 
  • You will have the next 4 appointments once a year (annually). 

If all of your results show you do not have cell changes, you will be invited back for regular cervical screening every 3 or 5 years, depending on your age. 

If cell changes (abnormal cells) come back

For a few people, cell changes may come back (recur) in the future. Going for cervical screening when invited helps find any cell changes early, so they can be monitored or treated as needed.  

Read more about cell changes that come back > 

More information about what to expect after treatment

Your colposcopist is the best person to advise on what you can expect after treatment for cell changes. They know your individual situation and can answer any questions you have. 

Remember, we are also here for you. Whether you are worried about side effects, struggling with your feelings, or just want to chat about your experience, there are lots of ways we can help:

Other useful organisations

British Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (BSCCP)
A membership body for colposcopists that also offers information for those invited to colposcopy. Includes a ‘Frequently asked questions’ section. 
www.bsccp.org.uk/women 

Thank you to all the experts who checked the accuracy of this information, and the volunteers who shared their personal experience to help us develop it. 

References

  • O'Connor M. et al, Adverse psychological outcomes following colposcopy and related procedures: a systematic review, BJOG: an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 2016.
  • Sharp L. et al, After‐effects reported by women following colposcopy, cervical biopsies and LLETZ: results from the TOMBOLA trial, BJOG: an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 2009.
  • The British Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, Frequently asked questions www.bsccp.org.uk/women/frequently-asked-questions/#follow-up-after-treatment Accessed: February 2019.
  • Kyrgiou M. and Shaf M. I., Colposcopy and cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, Obstetrics, gynaecology and reproductive medicine, 2014.
  • NHS Cervical Screening Programme, Colposcopy and Programme Management, 3rd edition, 2016.
  • Scottish Cervical Screening Programme, Colposcopy and Programme Management, 3rd Edition, 2017.

We write our information based on literature searches and expert review. For more information about all the references we used, please contact [email protected]

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"I underwent treatment for severe abnormalities of the cervix...the fear I felt lead to a passion to raise awareness and funds for Jo's"
Read Lynette's story
Date last updated: 
24 Sep 2019
Date due for review: 
23 May 2022

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