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Colposcopy is an examination to take a closer look at your cervix. It is usually done if cervical screening (a smear test) finds cell changes (abnormal cells).
You may feel nervous about going to colposcopy, especially if you’re not sure what to expect. The information on this page talks through each step of the appointment, as well as giving some tips that may make your experience better.
Remember, if you need more support we are here before and after your appointment. Whether you just want to talk things through or have a specific question, one of our support services may be able to help.
A colposcopy appointment usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes.
Your colposcopist usually puts some liquid on your cervix. This helps show any areas where there are cell changes.
Most colposcopists use a combination of acetic acid and Schiller’s iodine tests:
Your colposcopist may take a sample of tissue from your cervix. This is sometimes called a punch biopsy.
A biopsy only takes a small sample of tissue, so most people don’t have local anaesthetic. If you would like local anaesthetic, ask your colposcopist.
Your colposcopist will explain the biopsy before they take it. Some people find it uncomfortable, but it should not be painful. Remember, you are in control. If it hurts, ask your colposcopist to stop.
Your colposcopist will take between 1 to 3 biopsies to make sure they have enough tissue from different areas of the cervix. They send the sample of tissue to a laboratory for testing.
Everyone’s experience is different, but knowing these tips before you go to colposcopy may help you feel more comfortable:
After the examination, your colposcopist will:
Sometimes, your colposcopist can tell you if they found anything straight away, but sometimes they need to confirm the result from your biopsy.
Sometimes, your colposcopist can tell that cell changes need treatment during your first colposcopy appointment. If this happens, your colposcopist will explain what the treatment is and why they want to do it, to make sure you are happy with their suggestion. If you are, they will remove areas where there are cell changes.
The most common treatment is a large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ). This removes a small area of the cervix where the cell changes are. You will have a local anaesthetic before LLETZ, which numbs the area being treated.
When you are invited for colposcopy, you should be sent a leaflet explaining what will happen at your appointment. If you haven’t been sent a leaflet, we hope the information on this page has helped. But if you feel you have more questions:
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