Cervical screening and Colposcopy

What is a colposcopy?

A colposcopy is a close examination of a woman’s cervix (neck of the womb) to help identify any abnormalities using a special magnifying instrument called a colposcope.

Why is a colposcopy done?

Your health care provider may recommend you have a colposcopy after an abnormal Cervical Screening test (CST – previously known as a Pap smear) or because of symptoms such as bleeding from the cervix. The CST is a screening tests for viruses associated with an increase your risk for developing changes in the cells of the cervix. A ‘Higher Risk’ result means one or more of the viruses were detected. Some women may also have been told that microscopic changes were seen in some cells.

A colposcopy helps a gynaecologist to make an assessment of the cervix to determine:

  • whether there is an abnormality and what type of abnormality (minor or more serious)
  • if a biopsy should be taken and where the biopsy should be taken from 
  • if further treatment is needed.

How is a colposcopy done?

Having a colposcopy is similar to having a CST (Pap smear) but will take between 15 minutes and half an hour. A colposcopy is usually scheduled for a time when you are not having your period but bleeding does not mean a colposcopy cannot be done. (It is important that abnormal or unusual bleeding is investigated.)

  • A speculum is inserted into the vagina. 
  • The doctor looks at the cervix through the colposcope which is placed at the entrance to the vagina. The colposcope magnifies the cervix 6 – 10 times.
  • A cotton swab may be used to remove excess mucous and a weak vinegar solution is applied to the cervix. This makes the areas of change in the cells turn white helping the doctor to identify abnormalities. 
  • Sometimes a brown solution (iodine) is applied to view your cervix. During this examination healthy cells turn brown. You need to tell the doctor or nurse if you are allergic to iodine.
  • Having identified any abnormalities, the doctor may take a biopsy (the removal of a tiny piece of tissue) from any areas of concern.
  • A biopsy may be felt as a sharp pinch and there may be some associated cramping pains afterwards.
  • The tissue collected is sent to a laboratory for testing to confirm the diagnosis.

What should I do after the colposcopy

  • Colposcopy is an outpatient or clinic procedure and will not require a hospital stay.
  • If a biopsy is taken, some extra discomfort may be experienced for the next 24 hours. It is normal for some slightly blood stained discharge to occur and this may continue for 5 or 6 days. It is best to avoid heavy physical exercise, sexual intercourse, swimming, bathing and spas for 24 – 48 hours after a biopsy.
  • Contact your doctor if you have any heavy bleeding, fever or smelly vaginal discharge.

Obtaining results and follow up care:

After the colposcopy Dr Elgey will explain what was seen and when to return for your results. Depending on the results of your colposcopy and biopsy, the doctor may recommend:

  • No further action (usually where there are minor changes in the smear and no abnormality seen colposcopically)
  • Repeat the CST(Pap smear) in approximately 12 months
  • Repeating the colposcopy at a later date
  • Active treatment.

Booking in for a colposcopy:

To schedule your colposcopy call our rooms on 07 5667 7711.

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