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A colposcopy is a procedure used to examine your cervix and check for abnormal cells.
Call 0141 300 5009 or book online today to arrange a consultation to discuss a private colposcopy with a consultant of your choice at Circle Health Group.
This page explains what a colposcopy is, why you may need to have one, and what to expect before, during, and after the procedure.
You must be aged over 18 and book your own appointment to use this service. If you would like to book an appointment for anyone under the age of 18, please call us on 0141 300 5009 .
Abnormal cells in your cervix may be caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). If left untreated these abnormal cells may lead to cervical cancer. If you have abnormal cells on your cervix, they will be removed to prevent them from becoming cancerous or pre-cancerous.
A colposcopy can also be used to investigate problems like unexplained vaginal bleeding, an infection with HPV that hasn't gone away, or inflammation of your cervix. It may be used to diagnose conditions such as genital warts, vulval, vaginal, or cervical cancer.
Your consultant will ask you about your general health and medical history and may review any previous tests or scans.
They will explain the procedure to you and answer any questions or address any concerns you may have.
Many women feel understandably anxious about having a colposcopy. Being well-informed and clear about what to expect during the procedure will help put your mind at rest and make you feel as comfortable as possible. You can bring a friend or family member to your colposcopy appointment if it helps you feel more at ease.
At Circle Health Group, your first appointment is very important as it's where we get to know you, discuss your expectations for treatment, and encourage you to ask any questions you may have.
Before your colposcopy, there are a few things you need to do to make sure the procedure goes as smoothly as possible.
Your consultant will explain what you need to do before the procedure. Feel free to ask any questions you have about preparing for your colposcopy.
Before your colposcopy, your consultant will explain the procedure to you including what will happen during the procedure, what to expect afterwards, and any possible risks and complications.
You will be asked to remove your clothes from the waist down. You will be asked to lie down, and a sheet will be placed over your lower half. You will need to lie on your back with your legs drawn up and your knees apart. Your legs will be placed on padded supports. Your consultant will assist you in getting into the right position.
First, your consultant will insert a smooth, tube-shaped instrument called a speculum into your vagina. The speculum helps keep your vagina open and is the same instrument that is used during a cervical smear test. The speculum may feel slightly uncomfortable but should not be painful.
Next, your consultant will examine your vagina and cervix using the colposcope.
Your consultant will dab different liquids onto your cervix to allow them to see any abnormal cells more clearly. You may feel a mild stinging or tingling as these liquids are used.
If your consultant finds anything unusual, they may take a sample of cells, called a biopsy, from your cervix to send to the laboratory for analysis.
You may feel a sharp pinching pain, discomfort, or cramps while the biopsy is being taken. Tell your consultant if you feel any pain during the procedure and they will try and make it more comfortable for you.
A colposcopy normally takes around twenty minutes.
If you need to have a larger piece of tissue removed from your cervix, your consultant may want to take a cone-shaped sample of tissue called a cone biopsy. You will need to make a follow-up appointment to have a cone biopsy. The procedure is carried out under general anaesthetic, and you will need to spend one night in hospital.
If your consultant discovers abnormal cells during your colposcopy, they may perform a procedure to remove them from your cervix. This may be done at the same time as your colposcopy, or you may need to come back for another appointment.
Abnormal cells can be removed in several ways:
During LLETZ your cervix is injected with a local anaesthetic to prevent you from feeling any pain. If you feel any pain or discomfort during the procedure you may need more local anaesthetic so let your consultant know.
During the procedure, a heated loop of wire is used to remove a small piece of tissue (about the size of a fingernail).
Let your consultant know if you have an intrauterine device (IUD) such as a copper or Mirena coil before having this procedure. Sometimes the threads that hang outside your cervix from the IUD may be cut during LLETZ, though your consultant will try to avoid this. If the threads are cut, don't worry, your IUD can still be removed when needed. You will be able to go home straight away after your LLETZ.
During laser treatment, a laser is used to destroy abnormal cells. The procedure is performed under local anaesthetic and is done as an outpatient meaning you can go home the same day. After laser treatment, healthy cells grow back to replace the abnormal cells.
Cryocautery is a procedure where the cervix is temporarily frozen with a metal probe for around two to three minutes. It is often used to treat bleeding after sex or excessive vaginal discharge but may be used to treat abnormal cervical cells.
We want you to be as well-informed and comfortable as possible during your procedure so please ask your consultant any questions you may have. You are less likely to feel anxious about having your colposcopy if you know what to expect before, during, and after the procedure, and have discussed any worries or concerns with your consultant beforehand.
Possible risks and complications of colposcopy include:
If you experience any complications during or after your colposcopy, the medical team will be on hand to give you whatever treatment you need. If you experience any of the above symptoms after you have returned home, contact your doctor immediately.
You can usually go home as soon as your colposcopy is finished.
After your colposcopy, you may have some mild pain, similar to period pain for a few days. Taking over-the-counter painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen can help. Your vagina and vulva may feel sore for a couple of days.
It's common to have some discharge and light bleeding from your vagina after your colposcopy. This normally stops within three to five days. It is best not to have sex, use tampons or vaginal creams, medications, or lubricants until the bleeding has stopped.
After your colposcopy, you can probably resume your normal activities like working or driving the next day. Everyone's recovery is different, and you may need to rest for a few days after your procedure. Listen to your body and do what is best for you.
If you had a biopsy or LLETZ at the same time as your colposcopy, you may experience vaginal bleeding for up to four weeks.
While you have bleeding, discharge, or pain:
No abnormal cells. About four out of ten women who undergo a colposcopy have a normal result. If your result is normal, you will be invited for a cervical smear test in three to five years depending on your age
Abnormal cells. Around six out of ten women having a colposcopy have an abnormal result. The abnormal cells are not cancerous but could develop into cancer cells if left untreated.
There are four types of abnormal cells:
Cervical cancer - Rarely, your colposcopy will show a diagnosis of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer detected through a colposcopy is normally in the early stages and responds better to treatment than cancer in the later stages. If you are diagnosed with cervical cancer, you will be referred to a team of specialists for treatment
More than 90% of cervical cancer cases are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV infections are common and usually clear up on their own, but in some cases, they can lead to abnormal cells that may develop into cancer cells. If you have abnormal cells caused by HPV on your cervical smear test, you will need to have a colposcopy.
A colposcopy normally takes between ten and twenty minutes.
You can get pregnant as soon as you start having sex after your colposcopy. Having a colposcopy does not affect your fertility or your chance of getting pregnant.
You may feel some mild discomfort during your colposcopy, but the procedure shouldn't hurt. If you feel pain during your colposcopy, let your consultant know.
You may have some discharge and light bleeding for a few days after your colposcopy. Your vagina and vulva may also be sore after the procedure. You can have sex as soon as you feel ready after the bleeding and discharge have stopped. If you had a biopsy or LLETZ procedure, talk to your consultant about when it is safe for you to have sex.
It's possible to have a colposcopy when you are having your period, but it may be harder for your consultant to see your cervical cells clearly especially if your period is heavy. If your period is due when you are scheduled to have a colposcopy, contact the hospital to find out whether you need to reschedule.
You can have a colposcopy while you are pregnant, but your consultant may want to avoid taking a biopsy. If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant and are scheduled to have a colposcopy, contact your consultant for advice.
If you would like to learn more about this procedure, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly on 0141 300 5009.