What is a colposcopy?
The Colposcopic examination is required for the women; who have:
- abnormal cervical smear or
- abnormal looking cervix or
- cervical polyp or
- abnormal symptoms like, intermenstrual or post-coital bleeding
During the examination, a liquid or dye may be applied to the cervix to help identify any changes to the cells. A colposcopy can be done safely during pregnancy.
Before the colposcopy, the doctor will explain: the colposcopy examination, the possible treatments for abnormal cell changes, and any risks linked to the treatment.
Please do not worry. This does not mean that you have cancer. You have been advised to have a colposcopy examination because your smear test showed signs of changes in the cells of your cervix.These cell changes give early warning that cervical cancer might develop if the cells are left untreated.
The colposcopy examination allows the doctor to decide if you need treatment. For some women, these cell changes return to normal on their own. Other women may need treatment to the cervix.
For the Colposcopic examination, you will then be asked to undress from the waist down and lie on the examination couch. The nurse will help you to position yourself on a special type of couch that has padded supports to rest your legs. When you are lying comfortably, the doctor will gently insert a speculum into your vagina, just as when you had your smear test taken, so they can look at the cervix through the colposcope. The colposcope does not touch you or go inside you, it just magnifies the area so that any abnormal areas or cell changes can be seen more clearly.
The Colposcope can obtain pictures of the cervix, for your records and you will be asked beforehand if you are agreeable to this being done. The pictures are helpful for comparison, if you have to return for a repeat examination in the future.
If the doctor sees any abnormal area, they may take a small sample / flake of tissue from the surface of your cervix. This is called a cervical biopsy. You may feel a slight pinching sensation.
A cervical biopsy, a sample of tissue from the cervix for detailed examination under a microscope in a laboratory and make a diagnosis. As cervical smear is a screening tool, not diagnostic. Cell changes on the cervix can be described as low grade and high grade, which means that it is not cancer, however these cells are not normal and they might change into cancer if left untreated.
How long does a colposcopy take?
The colposcopy examination lasts about 10 minutes. If you get treatment at the same time, it may take a little longer.
Do I need anyone with me?
You may wish to have your partner, a friend or relative with you. A nurse will be there to provide support and answer any questions you may have. If you have young children, you should try and arrange for someone to look after them rather than bring them to the clinic.