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Referral to colposcopy is usually because your cervical screening test has shown changes in cells on the cervix (neck of the womb). These changes act as early warning signals that cervical cancer could develop in the future if left untreated. The earlier the cell changes are found the easier they are to treat.
Some women will be referred to colposcopy for other reasons e.g. abnormal bleeding or irregular appearance of the cervix.
What is a colposcopy examination?
Colposcopy means looking at the cervix with a microscope. This is carried out in the same way as your smear test. During the examination dyes are applied to the cervix which is then viewed through the microscope. The microscope does not touch you or go inside you, it just provides magnification so that any abnormal areas can be seen more clearly.
A colposcopy can be done safely during pregnancy.
What will happen at the clinic?
Firstly, you will be asked some questions relating to your periods, the type of contraception you use, previous smear history, any operations or illnesses you have had in the past and so on. You will then be asked to undress from the waist down.
The nurse/midwife will then help you to position yourself on a special couch. When you are lying comfortably the Colposcopist will gently insert a speculum into your vagina to view the cervix, as during a smear test.
Dyes will be applied to the cervix to identify abnormal cells. A small biopsy (sample of tissue) may be taken and you may feel a slight pinching sensation. If considered necessary, abnormal surface cells on the cervix may be removed under local anesthetic. This will be fully discussed with you at the time.
How long does the examination take?
The colposcopy examination lasts 5 to 10 minutes. If treatment is carried out at the same time an extra 5 minutes is all that is usually necessary.
Do I need to bring somebody with me?
You may wish to have your partner or a friend or relative accompany you to the clinic. They may be present during the examination if you wish. If you have young children you should try to arrange for someone to look after them rather than bring them to the clinic.
Can I eat and drink before a colposcopy?
You should eat and drink normally, fasting is not advised.
What if my period is due?
A colposcopy examination can be carried out during your period so there is no need to postpone.
Can I go straight back to work/ college?
After the colposcopy examination you will be able to carry on as normal (this includes going back to work/college and driving). However, if you have had any treatment under local anesthetic you should take things easy for the rest of the day.
When is it safe to have intercourse?
If you have a treatment you will be given written information before you leave the clinic.
Will I need to attend the colposcopy clinic again?
Most women will need a review appointment. The plan will be discussed with you before you leave the clinic.
How can I reduce my risk of getting cervical cancer?
• Attend for your follow-up checks.
• If you smoke, QUIT
Queries / Worries and change of appointments:
Tel. (091) 544536