A colposcopy may also be recommended if you have symptoms such as bleeding between your periods or after sex, a persistent vaginal discharge, pelvic pain or if a GP or Gynaecologist finds your cervix looks unusual. Sometimes, a colposcopy is suggested if your womb is tilted, so the cervix is not easily visible or makes it difficult to take a cervical smear.
A colposcopy allows a specially trained Gynaecologist to see your cervix clearly, to assess the nature of any cervical abnormalities, and recommend the right treatment for you. It usually takes around 20 minutes after which you can go home or back to work straight away.
In most cases, if treatment is needed, it can be carried out there and then, to avoid any further delay.
What happens during a colposcopy?
Having a colposcopy is a similar experience to having a cervical smear. First, a speculum is inserted into the vagina to gently reveal the cervix. The doctor then views your cervix using a colposcope – a binocular-like instrument which stays outside you provides the doctor with a brightly-lit, magnified view of your cervix.
Your cervix is then painted with acetic acid (white vinegar) which may sound strange, but this causes any area containing abnormal cells to show up as visible white patches. Sometimes an iodine stain is also applied to further highlight any abnormal cells as, unlike healthy cells, these do not stain brown.
These procedures allow the colposcopy specialist to grade the appearance of your cervix and recommend the right treatment.
A nurse is always present during a colposcopy to support you, as well as to help the doctor. You will also have a chance to see the appearance of your cervix on a screen if you wish (but you don’t have to!)
If your cervix looks normal, you may need no further treatment except a cervical smear, or swabs to check for infection or the presence of high-risk human papilloma viruses (HPV).
An abnormal colposcopy will need further treatment. Your doctor will want to take a sample (biopsy) of any abnormal areas to send to a laboratory for examination. In this case, your cervix will be numbed with a local anaesthetic to avoid discomfort.
Sometimes, the doctor may need to remove a larger area of cells using a treatment known as LLETZ (Large Loop Excision of Transformation Zone). This can cause a cramping sensation, like a period cramp, but there is no sharp pain.
After a biopsy, the doctor may apply a yellow-brown paste which acts as a liquid bandage to stop any bleeding.
You may notice a slight blood-stained discharge afterwards, or if you had the ‘liquid bandage’ you may notice brown flecks that look like coffee grounds. Any discharge will usually clear within a few days. It’s a good idea to wear panty liners which you can change regularly.
Your Consultant Gynaecologist will explain all the colposcopy findings during your examination. If you have any tests taken, such as a cervical smear, a biopsy, or swabs, these results will be sent to you within a few days or a follow-up appointment will be arranged to discuss the findings. If you have any questions or worries, you can phone the clinic at any time.
Private Colposcopy London
The Medical Chambers Kensington offers private colposcopy with specialist Gynaecologists who are accredited by the British Society of Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (BSCCP).
To find out how our private colposcopy specialists can help you, please telephone 020 7244 4200 for a confidential chat.