Information for patients

Obstetrics and gynaecology

Why have I been offered a colposcopy?

Colposcopy is a more detailed look at the cervix (neck of the womb) using a special microscope (a colposcope). The usual reason for having a colposcopy is an abnormal cervical screening (smear test) result.

Colposcopy is also used to investigate an unusual looking cervix or vaginal bleeding.

What are you looking for?

The colposcopist will be looking for cells that appear cancerous or are showing pre-cancerous changes.

Pre-cancerous changes are known as ‘cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia’ or CIN. There are three grades of CIN. The grades describe how far the abnormal cells have gone into the surface layer of the cervix. With all three grades of CIN, often only a small part of the cervix is affected by abnormal changes.

Sometimes the abnormal cells are found in special mucus-producing tissue. These abnormal cells are called CGIN.

Neither CGIN or CIN mean that you have cancer, but if left untreated, these abnormal cells are at risk of developing into cancer over a long period of time in the future.

What is involved?

  • Colposcopy is carried out at Greenoaks, Rotherham Hospital. You are welcome to bring a person with you for support.
  • The colposcopist will ask about your medical history and answer any questions you may have. The colposcopist will explain the risks, benefits and alternatives before asking if you are happy for the colposcopy to go ahead.
  • The examination requires you to remove clothing below the waist. If you wear a loose skirt, this can be kept on. A sheet will always be provided to cover your waist and upper legs.
  • The colposcopy staff will help you to lie on your back on a special couch with your legs supported by stirrups.
  • The colposcopist will insert a lubricated instrument called a speculum into your vagina. The speculum gently parts the vaginal walls, allowing the inside of the vagina and the cervix to be examined.
  • The colposcopist will look at the cervix through the colposcope (which stays outside your body and does not touch you). There is a television screen connected to the colposcope so you can watch the examination if you wish. We may take a photograph of your cervix to store in your patient record. The photograph of your cervix may be of benefit if you are seen by a different colposcopist at a future appointment.
  • The colposcopist will apply some different fluids to your cervix that help to show any abnormal cells.
  • The colposcopist will discuss with you any recommended treatments or investigations. Some of these can be carried out during your appointment.
  • Colposcopy appointment usually takes 20 minutes in total.

What are the benefits?

  • It is the only way that we can further investigate abnormal cervical cells.
  • It is quick and effective.
  • There is no effect on fertility (the ability to conceive).
  • Colposcopy is safe, even during pregnancy.

What are the risks?

There are no risks associated with having a colposcopy, but there are some risks associated with the treatments or biopsies you may be offered. Your colposcopist will discuss these with you during the appointment.

What can I expect afterwards?

Colposcopy alone will not leave you with any side effects. However, if you accept any treatments or biopsies, your colposcopist will discuss with you what to expect.

Practical advice

  • Please make sure you eat and drink something before your appointment.
  • You can have a colposcopy during your period, but if your blood loss is heavy it could be difficult for the colposcopist to fully and accurately examine your cervix. If you take the 21 day contraceptive pill, you may wish to carry on to your next pack without a break, so that your period will be delayed enabling you to attend. If in any doubt, please call the Colposcopy Office for advice before cancelling your appointment.
  • Please advise your colposcopist of any upcoming holidays, as it may affect your care plan. We may need to delay biopsies or treatment until after your return home, because of the risk of bleeding and infection. We would still be able to carry out your colposcopy, however.

Results and follow up

After your colposcopy, you may be discharged immediately back to the care of your GP, but if any tests are performed we aim to write to you within 8 weeks with your results and a plan of care.

Please ensure we have the correct contact details.

How to contact us

Colposcopy Secretaries

01709 424300
Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm

Health Advice

01709 427641
Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm

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