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We know that you may feel anxious about being invited to colposcopy, and that coronavirus (COVID-19) might add an extra level of worry. Your colposcopy appointment may be postponed or be a little different because of the pandemic, but every decision is being made with your health and that of those looking after you as a priority.
We want you feel as comfortable and confident as possible, so on this page we talk through:
If you want to talk anything through or have specific questions, our support services may be able to help. You can give our Helpline a call on 0808 802 8000 or join our forum to talk with others who have gone to colposcopy.
Louise, who had LLETZ
Colposcopy is an examination to take a closer look at your cervix. An expert, called a colposcopist, does the examination. This is a different expert to the one at your cervical screening (smear test).
Colposcopy is used to both diagnose and treat cell changes (abnormal cells). If you need treatment, you may:
This decision will be made by you and your colposcopist, based on the grade of cell changes you have and your preference.
Many cell changes go away on their own, but some may develop into cervical cancer. Colposcopy helps identify whether cell changes need treatment to stop this happening.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the guidance on who is invited for colposcopy has been updated. The aim is to make sure you and health workers are as protected as possible by weighing up the risk of HPV and cell changes against the risk of coronavirus.
The new guidance says you should be invited for colposcopy for one of these reasons:
If your recent cervical screening results suggest low-grade cell changes, whether you are invited for colposcopy will depend on the capacity and safety measures in place where you live. It is best to contact your local colposcopy clinic for advice. Colposcopy clinics are keeping a database of everyone who has not been seen and will arrange an appointment in the future.
The new guidance says your colposcopy appointment should happen as planned if:
If you are waiting for a follow up test after treatment, this may be postponed for up to 6 months. We know this may be worrying, so it may help to know that treatment is usually very successful.
If you are not sure what is happening with your appointment or are worried, it is best to call your colposcopy clinic and ask. They will be able to give you guidance and support specific to your situation.
Your colposcopy clinic will have a record of your cervical screening result and the reason why you have been referred to colposcopy. They will use this information alongside the risk of coronavirus to help decide whether you need a face-to-face appointment soon, or whether it is safe to postpone it. Every decision is made with your health as a priority.
If it is not necessary for you to have a face-to-face appointment, some colposcopy clinics offer virtual consultations and dedicated helplines.
If you are having a face-to-face appointment, it is important to contact the colposcopy clinic if you suspect you have symptoms of coronavirus, you have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus, or you are shielding.
Colposcopy is usually done in a hospital. The appointment takes between 15 and 30 minutes. You can go home soon after the appointment.
Before your appointment, you can eat and drink as normal. It is common to have some light bleeding (spotting) after colposcopy, so you may want to bring a sanitary pad or panty liner with you.
Contact the hospital if:
The experts who do your colposcopy examination and any treatment are called colposcopists. They sometimes go by a different title, like nurse colposcopist or colposcopy nurse specialist.
Every colposcopist and nurse colposcopist has the same training. They sometimes go by different titles because of their background:
You may also meet a nurse (sometimes called a colposcopy nurse), who assists during your appointment. They do not do the examination or treatment.
Not everyone invited to colposcopy:
If you do need treatment, your colposcopist will tell you whether it will happen at your first appointment or whether you will be invited back.
The main purpose of colposcopy is just to take a closer look at your cervix and, like at cervical screening, you are in control at all times. You wouldn’t have been invited to colposcopy unless healthcare professionals thought it was needed.
If you are worried about colposcopy or have any questions, speak with your GP, the hospital where you have been referred, or to us. We are always here, over the phone or online, to help.
You may have found out you are pregnant between having cervical screening and getting your results. If this happens and you have been invited to colposcopy, it's best to speak with your GP. They will usually recommend you still go to colposcopy so an expert (called a colposcopist) can have a closer look at your cervix and do more tests if needed.
Colposcopy will not put your pregnancy at risk. If you are invited to colposcopy, tell your colposcopist you are pregnant, just in case they don’t know.
Different hospitals and colposcopists may recommend different things to do or not do before your appointment. If you are unsure, it's best to speak with the hospital where your appointment is.
If your colposcopy appointment is still happening, your doctor will have made that decision with your health and any risk in mind. If you are worried about going to the hospital, it is best to ring their number and ask what satefy measures they have in place. They will be able to give you advice and support based on your individual situation.
We know you may feel worried about colposcopy or might be unsure about whether you need to do anything before your appointment. There are lots of places to get support but, if you have a specific question about your colposcopy appointment, you should ring the hospital where your appointment is happening. They can talk you through everything you need to know.
If you have general questions about colposcopy or just want to talk, we are here for you. Call our Helpline on 0808 802 8000 to speak with our trained volunteers.
If you have a general medical question about colposcopy or cell changes, you can get an answer from our panel of experts. Submit your question confidentially to our panel of experts and get a tailored reply.
Sometimes it can help to connect with others who are going through or have gone through the same experience. If you think this might help, join our Forum – you can write a post or just read what others are talking about.
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.
We write our information based on literature searches and expert review. For more information about the references we used, please contact [email protected]