Colposcopy is an examination of the cervix (neck of the womb) using a specially designed microscope (Colposcope).
Why do I need a colposcopy?
The main reason for a colposcopy is to detect abnormal cell changes of the cervix although other conditions can also be diagnosed during a colposcopic examination. The most common indications for colposcopy are:
- An abnormal smear
- Bleeding after intercourse
- An identified abnormality of the cervix
- Bleeding between periods
If your smear test is abnormal, then you should not be alarmed. One in twelve smear tests are abnormal and this usually means that small changes have been found in the cells of your cervix. These changes are known as ‘dyskaryosis’ and act as an early warning sign that cancer might occur in the future. It is very rare foe abnormal smears to show cancer.
What should I do before colposcopy?
You will be asked to undress from the waist downwards (though a full skirt need not be removed). You may wish to wear a skirt to avoid removing all your lower clothing. It is common to have a small amount of bleeding after a colposcopy. You may wish to bring a sanitary towel just in case. Tampons are best avoided immediately after colposcopy if a biopsy is performed.
It will be necessary to know the date of your period. You may wish to note this in advance.
Colposcopy can be done safely during pregnancy, although treatment is usually left until after delivery.
What actually happens?
You will be asked to lie on a gynaecological examination couch with your legs in supports. When you are positioned correctly a speculum will be placed in your vagina just as when you had a smear. A smear test may then be repeated. The cervix will then be examined using the colposcope. Special dyes are often applied to the cervix during the examination.
It is sometimes necessary to take a small sample of tissue (A biopsy) from the surface of the cervix. The biopsy is the size of a pinhead. You may feel a slight sting but it should be not be painful.
Sometimes you will be offered treatment. The treatment removes or destroys the abnormal cells and allows normal cells to grow back in their place.
Treatment – what it is and what it does
The treatment types are LLETZ, cone biopsy and hysterectomy. LLETZ and cone biopsy are similar – they use a small tool and electric current to remove the area containing abnormal cells (the transformation zone) from the cervix. The piece of cervical tissue that is removed can be sent for examination under a microscope. It will be checked to confirm the degree of cell changes and to make sure that the area containing the abnormal cells has been removed. You usually have this treatment under local anaesthetic unless the area is too large or you are too nervous. The treatment uses an electric current
to destroy the abnormal cells. It is quite quick and
you will be able to go home afterwards
What happens afterwards?
The findings will be explained to you but the actual results may not be available until some days later when the biopsy and smear have been analysed. Colposcopy has no major side effects. Very occasionally, women can get a reaction to the iodine in one of the dyes. If you have iodine allergy you must let your doctor know. There is no effect to fertility or pregnancy.
If you have had a biopsy, you should refrain from intercourse for five days and use sanitary towels rather than tampons (following treatment you are advised to refrain from intercourse for a month).
You have received treatment to the neck of your womb (the cervix). This means the abnormal cells on your cervix have been removed with a hot wire and should also mean that your smear test should now return to normal. Just because you have had treatment does not mean that you have cancer. What is does mean is that we have managed to get rid of cells that could have become cancer had they been left untreated. Most women are completely cured by this treatment and only 2% require a second treatment. We will review you in 6 months time to make sure your smear test has returned to normal.
What is normal and abnormal following treatment?
||You will have a red/ brown vaginal discharge for approximately 10 - 14 days.
||You should not have sexual intercourse for 4 weeks and avoid using tampons with you next period. This will allow the area to heal.
||Bath/shower as you would do normally, but do not douche inside the vagina.
||If you have any very heavy bleeding with clots that is not normal period, you should contact us or your GP immediately.
||We will write to you within 2-3 weeks time with the results.
||You will be reviewed in 6 weeks time – if you have not been given an appointment then please contact the clinic.
If you have any worries or concerns please telephone:
The Birmingham Gynaecology Clinic on
0121 421 6655
the Consulting Suites at which you were treated
0121 446 1636
0121 452 2810
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