A colposcopy is a procedure to find out whether there are abnormal cells on or in a woman's cervix and is often done if abnormal cells are detected during a cervical screening. During the procedure a microscope with a light is used to observe the cervix and liquids are applied to highlight abnormal cells. Should any abnormal cells be present, the consultant will be able to identify them and take a small sample of tissue (biopsy) to send away for further analysis.
What happens after a Colposcopy?
After having a colposcopy you'll be able to go home as soon as you feel ready, which is usually straight away. You can resume normal activities such as driving and going back to work immediately although you may prefer to rest until the next day. The consultant may be able to tell you when they found straight away however if a biopsy was taken it will sent to a laboratory for testing and you will receive your results by post. Wait until bleeding has stopped before resuming sexual activity or using creams, vaginal medicines or tampons.
Treatment to remove abnormal cells
If abnormal cells are detected and it's deemed there is a moderate to high risk of them becoming cancerous if left untreated and it is often recommended to have them removed.
There a several effective treatments that can be used to remove these cells, including:
- Large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ) - In this procedure a heated wire loop is used to remove the abnormal cells. This procedure is usually carried out under local anaesthetic and you're able to go home the same day.
- Cone biopsy - In this procedure a cone-shaped piece of tissue containing the abnormal cells is cut from the cervix. A cone biopsy is usually carried out using a general anaesthetic (you're put to sleep) and you may need to stay in the hospital overnight.
A colposcopy is a very safe procedure with minimal risk of any serious problems.
You may however experience some side effects which are as follows:
- Pain or discomfort - If you experience any pain or discomfort make the colposcopist aware so they can try and make you more comfortable.
- Brown vaginal discharge - This is caused by the liquids used to highlight abnormal cells in the cervix and should pass quickly.
- Light bleeding - This can occur if a biopsy is taken and shouldn't last longer than 3-5 days.
A colposcopy is a short procedure that usually takes around 15-20 minutes.