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If following your screening test you have an abnormal test result|, you may be referred for a colposcopy.
A colposcopy shows the cervix in detail using a specially-adapted type of microscope called a colposcope. It acts like a magnifying glass, so that the person doing the examination can see the whole cervix clearly. A colposcopy is used to confirm whether you have CIN (or very rarely, if you have cancer) and how severe it might be (the grade|).
You’ll have your colposcopy at your local colposcopy unit, which is usually at a hospital outpatient’s clinic. Almost all hospitals with gynaecological units have the facilities to do a colposcopy.
A colposcopy can be carried out by a specialist doctor or a nurse colposcopist. Colposcopists follow national guidelines when deciding whether you need further tests or treatment. Before your examination, you’ll have a chance to discuss your screening test results, and any worries that you have, with the doctors or nurses at the clinic.
It was not an unpleasant experience; the doctor was superb, as was the nurse. They took me through what was going to happen and asked me if I had any worries about the procedure. Anna
It was not an unpleasant experience; the doctor was superb, as was the nurse. They took me through what was going to happen and asked me if I had any worries about the procedure.
You’ll be helped to position yourself on a specially-designed chair or examination table. When you’re lying comfortably, the colposcopist will use a speculum, in the same way as in the screening test, so that your cervix can be seen. The cervix is then painted with a liquid to make the abnormal areas show up more clearly. A light is shone onto the cervix and the doctor or nurse will look through the colposcope, which stays outside your body, to examine the surface of the cervix. A small sample (biopsy) of cells may be taken from the cervix. These cells are examined under a microscope in the laboratory.
A colposcopy takes 15-20 minutes and so is longer than the screening test. It’s not usually painful, but you may feel some pain if a biopsy is taken. The biopsy may also cause some slight bleeding for a couple of days afterwards.
Content last reviewed: 1 October 2012
Next planned review: 2014
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