Colposcopy

A colposcopyClose examination of the cervix of the uterus using a magnifying instrument with attached light source, known as a colposcope. allows your doctor, or specialist nurse, to look closely at the cervixAny neck-like structure; most commonly refers to the neck of the uterus. using binocular magnificationMagnification that involves both eyes.. Colposcopy can be used to identify cervical intraepithelial neoplasiaAbnormal changes in the cervix of the uterus that may resolve spontaneously, or may progress to cervical cancer. (see the Cervical screening test results explained page), which can sometimes be treated at the same time.

Before a colposcopy

It can be helpful to bring a list of any medicines you are taking to your appointment, and to make a note of the date that your last period began. Because it is normal to have some discharge after a colposcopyClose examination of the cervix of the uterus using a magnifying instrument with attached light source, known as a colposcope., you may want to bring a pad with you.

If you use a certain type of contraceptionA means of preventing pregnancy., known as an intrauterine contraceptive deviceA small device placed into the uterus to prevent conception, possibly by preventing the implantation of the embryo., it may be best to use an extra method of contraceptionA means of preventing pregnancy. for seven days before your appointment.

This is because sometimes treatment can be given at the same time as the colposcopyClose examination of the cervix of the uterus using a magnifying instrument with attached light source, known as a colposcope., and your intrauterine contraceptive deviceA small device placed into the uterus to prevent conception, possibly by preventing the implantation of the embryo. may need to be removed first if this is the case.

As with cervical screening tests, it is best to have a colposcopyClose examination of the cervix of the uterus using a magnifying instrument with attached light source, known as a colposcope. when you are not having a period, as this may make it more difficult to assess the cells in the cervixAny neck-like structure; most commonly refers to the neck of the uterus.. You should avoid having sexual intercourse, or using a tampon, vaginal creams or pessaries for at least one day before your visit.

What does a colposcopy involve?

Having a colposcopyClose examination of the cervix of the uterus using a magnifying instrument with attached light source, known as a colposcope. takes about 20 minutes and should be painless, although, like a cervical screening test, it can be a little uncomfortable.

You will be asked to undress from the waist down, although you may prefer to wear a long skirt on the day as this can be kept on during the test. You will then be asked to lie back on a couch with your knees bent and legs apart. In some countries your feet will be placed in stirrups.

Using a speculum, which is also used during a cervical screening test, the doctor or specialist nurse will gently open your vagina so that they can see the cervixAny neck-like structure; most commonly refers to the neck of the uterus.. They will use a colposcopeA binocular microscope with an attached light source, used to examine the cervix of the uterus.,a magnifying instrument with a light source attached to it, to look at the cervixAny neck-like structure; most commonly refers to the neck of the uterus. more closely. The colposcopeA binocular microscope with an attached light source, used to examine the cervix of the uterus. will not be inserted into your vagina at all.

Because changes in the cervical cells are difficult to see, some liquid (for example, a dilute vinegar solution) may be gently brushed over your cervixAny neck-like structure; most commonly refers to the neck of the uterus. with a cotton wool ball. This causes any abnormal cells to show up a different colour, so that they can be seen more easily. The liquid may be cold, and may sting a little.

Sometimes a small biopsyThe removal of a small sample of cells or tissue so that it may be examined under a microscope. The term may also refer to the tissue sample itself. or tissue sample is taken from the cervixAny neck-like structure; most commonly refers to the neck of the uterus.. This can cause a slight stinging sensation and a local anaestheticA medication that reduces sensation in a part of the body. may be given to reduce any discomfort. See the quick guide, Biopsies.

After a colposcopy

The results of a colposcopyClose examination of the cervix of the uterus using a magnifying instrument with attached light source, known as a colposcope. may be available immediately, unless a biopsyThe removal of a small sample of cells or tissue so that it may be examined under a microscope. The term may also refer to the tissue sample itself. is taken.

It is normal to have a slight brown or black vaginal discharge for a few days after having a colposcopyClose examination of the cervix of the uterus using a magnifying instrument with attached light source, known as a colposcope., but it is important to tell your doctor if you see any fresh bleeding.

Having a biopsyThe removal of a small sample of cells or tissue so that it may be examined under a microscope. The term may also refer to the tissue sample itself. can cause period-like pain for a few hours. If you have any treatment during colposcopyClose examination of the cervix of the uterus using a magnifying instrument with attached light source, known as a colposcope., you should avoid having sexual intercourse for four weeks afterwards. Your doctor may ask you to come in for a check-up around four to six months after the colposcopyClose examination of the cervix of the uterus using a magnifying instrument with attached light source, known as a colposcope..