A colposcopy is a test to look closely at the cervix, the lower womb or the top part of the vagina.

What is a colposcopy?

A colposcopy is a test that looks closely at the cervix, the lower part of the womb and the top of the vagina.

You may have this test:

Having a colposcopy

This test uses a microscope called a colposcope. You usually have it done at a hospital outpatient clinic.

What to expect during the test

A specialist doctor or nurse will do the colposcopy. To get ready for the test you undress from the waist down.

You then lie on your back on an examination couch. Some clinics have ones with foot or leg supports you can rest your legs up on. You will be asked to lie with your knees bent and apart.

Having a colposcopy

The doctor or nurse puts an instrument called a speculum into your vagina. This holds the vagina open so that they can see your cervix.

How a colposcopy is done 

The doctor or nurse puts a liquid on the cervix to show any abnormal areas.

They then shine a light onto the cervix and look at it through the colposcope. The colposcope is on a stand outside your body, between your legs or feet.

If you need a biopsy

The doctor or nurse may take a small sample of cells during the colposcopy (a biopsy). These will be sent to a laboratory to be looked at. 

The biopsy can cause slight bleeding and you may have some vaginal bleeding for up to 2 weeks. You may be advised not to have penetrative sex, use tampons or go swimming for a few days after a biopsy. This is to reduce the risk of infection and to give your cervix time to heal.

A colposcopy takes 15 to 20 minutes. It is not usually painful, but if a biopsy is taken you may feel some discomfort.

If you are worried about having a colposcopy it might help to talk to someone. You can call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 (7 days a week, 8am-8pm).

How we can help

Macmillan Cancer Support Line
The Macmillan Support Line offers confidential support to people living with cancer and their loved ones. If you need to talk, we'll listen.
0808 808 00 00
7 days a week, 9am - 5pm
Email us
Get in touch via this form
Chat online
7 days a week, 9am - 5pm
Online Community
An anonymous network of people affected by cancer which is free to join. Share experiences, ask questions and talk to people who understand.
Help in your area
What's going on near you? Find out about support groups, where to get information and how to get involved with Macmillan where you live.