What is a colposcopy?

A colposcopy is an examination of your cervix using a special type of microscope called a colposcope. The purpose of the colposcopy is to identify abnormal cells which may be pre-malignant, so that they can be treated before they progress to cancer.

The first step in cervical screening is a Cervical Screening Test (CST), which is usually done by your GP or gynaecologist. The CST was until recently called a “Pap Smear”, but the way the test is processed has changed, and hence the new name. If the CST shows abnormalities , then depending on the specific test result, you may need to have a colposcopy. The colposcopy will be done by a specialist gynaecologist who has had special training to identify different problems which may affect the cervix.

A colposcopy involves the gynaecologist using a speculum to look at your cervix under magnification. Then some vinegar solution will be applied to the cervix. This may sting slightly, but is not painful. The vinegar changes the appearance of the skin which covers the cervix, thus enabling the identification of potentially abnormal cells. Your doctor may need to do a biopsy. This involves taking a tiny piece of skin (about 1mm in size), which is sent for testing.

After the colposcopy, you may have some minor discomfort, but shouldn’t need anything stronger than a couple of Panadol. Most women will be fine to return to work afterwards, however some women choose to take the rest of the day off!

A colposcopy is a type of cervical cancer test. It lets your doctor or nurse get a close-up look at your cervix — the opening to your uterus. It’s used to find abnormal cells in your cervix.

Screening for cervical cancer using the pap smear method is a vitally important part of women’s health. WE use a specially designed microscope called a colposcope, which enables our team to view, identify and test for cervical abnormalities.

What can you expect during a Colposcopy?

When you attend for a colposcopy, I will take some time to ask questions and get some specific information about your medical history. Then I will explain what your test results showed and what the results mean. We will then talk in more detail about the colposcopy examination and go through any questions that you may. We will then go to another room to perform the colposcopy examination. There will also be a nurse chaperone/assistant to help, but you are welcome to have your partner/mother/friend to be with you during the procedure if you wish.

You’ll lie down on an exam table like you would for a pelvic exam. A speculum will be placed into your vagina. This separates the walls of the vagina in order to get a really good look at your cervix.

They’ll wash your cervix with a vinegar-like solution. This makes it easier to see abnormal cells. Next they’ll look at your cervix through a colposcope — an instrument that looks like binoculars on a stand with a bright light. The colposcope doesn’t touch you or go inside you.

After the procedure, you will return to the consulting room and we will talk about what I found during the examination, and go through all your questions. We will make a plan for what to do next. Often this will involve coming back to see me a week or so later to get the biopsy result, and talk further.