Diagnosing CIN

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.

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.

What happens?

You'll be helped to position yourself on a specially designed chair or examination table. When you're lying comfortably, the colposcopist will gently put an instrument called a speculum into your vagina to hold it open 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. 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.

Back to Cervical screening

The cervix

The cervix is the lower part of the womb (uterus). It’s often called the neck of the womb.

What is cervical screening?

Cervical screening can help stop cancer developing in the cervix by finding abnormal cells early.

Preparing for having a cervical screening test

A cervical screening test is a very simple procedure and takes less than five minutes.

Getting your cervical screening results

You should get your results within about two weeks of having your cervical screening test.

Your feelings about cervical screening

People react differently to their screening results. There is no right or wrong way to feel.

Cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN)

Cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN) is a term used to describe changes in the surface (squamous) cells of the cervix.

Grading CIN

Knowing the grade of CIN will help your specialist plan the best treatment for you.

Treating CIN

If you have been diagnosed with CIN, you may have treatment to remove the abnormal cells. There are different types of treatment.

After treatment for CIN

Most women feel fine after treatment for CIN but some may feel unwell for a few hours. You will be referred for regular screening tests.