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Colposcopy results

Your colposcopy results tell you what the expert (colposcopist) saw during your appointment and, if you had one, what your biopsy showed. 

We know that waiting for results can be difficult and you may feel anxious about what they will say, so remember we are here for you. If you want to talk, you can call our Helpline on 0808 802 8000, join our forum or use one of our other support services.

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When will I get my colposcopy results?

It may take 4 to 8 weeks to get colposcopy results. Your colposcopist usually sends a letter with your results. If your results take longer than this, you can call the hospital or your colposcopist to check on them.

If your colposcopist thinks you may have cervical cancer, you may be offered a telephone call or be invited to the colposcopy clinic within 2 to 3 weeks to get your results.

What do my colposcopy results mean?

Your colposcopy results tell you what your colposcopist saw during your appointment and, if you had one, what your biopsy showed. 

It’s important to know that colposcopy results are different to cervical screening (smear test) results. This can be confusing so, if you have any questions, your colposcopist or GP will be able to explain exactly what your results mean. 

Normal result

About 4 in 10 colposcopy results are normal. This means no cell changes (abnormal cells) were found in your cervix during colposcopy or biopsy. 

You can have a normal colposcopy result even if you had an abnormal cervical screening result. This is because cervical screening does not diagnose cell changes. Instead, it offers a snapshot of cervical cells that suggests whether you need further tests. Colposcopy is a much more detailed look at your cervix, which is why the results can be different.

If you have a normal result, you do not need any treatment and are at low risk of developing cervical cancer. You will usually be advised to continue going to cervical screening when invited, in case cell changes develop in future. You will be invited in 3 or 5 years depending on your age and where you live.

Read about cervical screening > 

Abnormal result

About 6 in 10 colposcopy results are abnormal. This means the tests done during colposcopy or biopsy have confirmed you have cell changes.

Possible abnormal results include:

  • cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) 
  • cervical glandular intraepithelial neoplasia (CGIN). 

Read more about CIN and CGIN > 

Rarely, a colposcopy result will show cervical cancer. If this happens, you'll be referred to a team of specialists to discuss treatment.

Read more about cervical cancer > 

Getting an abnormal result can be scary or upsetting. You may not understand what the result means for you or worry that you will be more at risk in future. If you have any questions or just want to chat about how you feel, we are here.

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Other words to look out for in your results

Your results may include the words ‘koilocytosis’ or ‘koilocytotic atypia’. These may sound a bit scary, but it’s simply a way to describe cells that develop if someone has human papillomavirus (HPV). 

Koilocytosis is usually seen in cervical tissue samples that have abnormal cell growth. This abnormal cell growth is also called dyskaryosis. So seeing these words is just an indication to watch for cell changes.

Colposcopy results FAQs

Cervical screening does not diagnose cell changes. It is a snapshot of cervical cells that suggest whether you need further tests. 

Your colposcopy will usually look at a piece of your cervical tissue (taken by biopsy or treatment). It is a much more detailed look at your cervix. This means your colposcopy result may be different to your cervical screening result. Not everyone referred to colposcopy after cervical screening:

  • has cell changes
  • has the type or grade of cell changes their cervical screening result suggested.

No. Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) and cervical glandular intraepithelial neoplasia (CGIN) means you have cell changes (abnormal cells) on your cervix. These changes are not cancer but, without monitoring or treatment, they may develop into cervical cancer.

Read more about CIN and CGIN >

If and when you have a follow-up appointment after colposcopy depends on:

  • your colposcopy results
  • whether you had treatment (at your first appointment or a further appointment).

Your colposcopist, or the hospital you had colposcopy at, should be able to tell you about any follow-up appointments.

If your colposcopy results show no cell changes, you do not need any further appointments. You will be invited back for cervical screening (a smear test) in 3 or 5 years, depending on your age.

If your colposcopy results show low-grade cell changes (also called CIN1), there are a few different options:

  • Your colposcopist may look at your individual situation and recommend you do not need treatment. This is because it is unlikely that CIN1 will develop into cervical cancer – often, the cells go back to normal on their own. This is called conservative management.
  • Your colposcopist may look at your individual situation and recommend you do have treatment.

If you have CIN2, your colposcopist may also look at all these options. If you have any questions or concerns, speak with them so they can explain their recommendation.

Read more about CIN and CGIN >

How we can help

Whatever your result, the experience of going for colposcopy, waiting for results and possibly getting a diagnosis can cause a lot of anxiety and distress. We hope this information has helped and we have more if it would be useful for you.

Read more about cell changes >

If you have questions or just need to talk, we are here for you. Our trained Helpline volunteers all have personal experience of cell changes or cervical cancer, so they understand what you are going through. Give them a call free on 0808 802 800.

Check our Helpline opening hours >

We also have a welcoming community in our online Forum, where you can get and give support. There are lots of conversations about colposcopy and cell changes, so you can choose to read existing threads or post your own messages. 

Join our Forum >

If you have general questions about colposcopy or cell changes, our Ask the Expert service may be able to help. Submit your question confidentially to our panel of experts and get a tailored reply. 

Use our Ask the Expert service >

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

  • NHS England and Public Health England (2020). NHS Cervical Screening Programme – Colposcopy: Initial guidance during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
  • Public Health England (2020). Cervical screening: programme and colposcopy management. www.gov.uk/government/publications/cervical-screening-programme-and-colposcopy-management. Accessed May 2020.
  • The British Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (2019). For women – Frequently asked questions.

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

Read more about how we research and write our information >

Cell changes >

Read about what cell changes (abnormal cells) are and how they are monitored or treated.

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Date last updated: 
13 May 2020
Date due for review: 
23 May 2022
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