Colposcopy is a detailed examination of the neck of the womb. It can be used to identify abnormal cells on the cervix, so that they can be treated to prevent cancer developing. We offer private colposcopy by an expert consultant gynaecologist, at one of our specialist clinics in Central London.
Colposcopy is a method of investigating the cervix using a specially designed microscope known as a colposcope. By looking at the cervix through the device, Mr Thomas Ind can identify changes on the cervix that are invisible to the naked eye. He can also take biopsies, so that the cells can be analysed by pathologists in the laboratory.
Why should I have a colposcopy?
Most women need a colposcopy following an abnormal cervical smear result. Investigation may also be recommended if abnormalities have been seen on the cervix, if you are at risk of cervical cancer or if you have had any symptoms that could suggest cervical cancer. A colposcopy may be arranged for women with:
- An abnormal smear test, or PAP smear result.
- Bleeding after sex.
- A new and persistent vaginal discharge.
- Bleeding that happens in-between your periods.
- An abnormality that has been seen on the cervix on routine examination.
- Women with decreased immunity, this includes transplant patients and women with autoimmune disorders.
If your smear test is abnormal, there is no need to panic, or feel alarmed. One in twelve smear tests are abnormal but it is very rare for them to indicate cancer. Usually small changes known as dyskaryosis have been found in the cells of your cervix. These are an early warning sign that cancer might occur in the future.
During colposcopy, Mr Ind can identify any abnormal areas, so that they can be treated before cancer can develop.
If you are not sure whether you need a colposcopy, or are concerned about your symptoms or your smear test result, contact your GP or ask our experienced team for advice.
Preparation for colposcopy
Colposcopy is performed as an outpatient, with no anaesthetic necessary, so you can eat and drink normally before the test. The gynaecologist will need to know the date of your period, so try to note this down beforehand.
The initial procedure is a little like a smear test, so you will be asked to undress from the waist downwards. You may choose to wear a full skirt, which can be pulled out of the way, so that you can avoid removing your lower clothing.
You may have vaginal bleeding after the examination, so it’s sensible to wear old underwear and to bring sanitary towel, just in case.
What happens in a colposcopy?
You will be asked to undress from the waist down and lie on a gynaecological examination couch. Your legs will be placed in supports. The staff at the clinic will give you a sheet to cover yourself, so that your dignity and comfort are maintained.
The consultant gynaecologist will carefully place a speculum into your vagina, as happens in a smear test. The allows the cervix to be clearly visualised through the colposcope. The device does not go inside you, it is used to look closely at the surface of the cervix. A repeat cervical smear may be taken. Special dyes are often applied to the cervix during the examination to highlight abnormal areas and small samples of tissue may be taken for expert analysis. The procedure usually takes no more than twenty minutes.
Is colposcopy safe?
Colposcopy is a safe and straightforward procedure with few side-effects. There are no effects on future fertility or pregnancies. Colposcopy can be performed safely during pregnancy, although any further treatment to the cervix is usually left until after the baby is born.
The examination has no major side-effects. Rarely women can get a reaction to one of the dyes, so it is important to let Mr Ind know if you have any allergies.
Does colposcopy hurt?
It’s natural to feel nervous about a medical examination but, for most women, colposcopy is painless. Mr Thomas Ind and the clinic team will support you throughout and make sure you feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible.
It is sometimes necessary to take small samples of tissue from the surface of the cervix. These biopsies are tiny, around the size of a pinhead. You may feel a slight sting when they are removed and a little cramping afterwards but it should not feel painful.
What happens after a colposcopy?
After your colposcopy, Mr Thomas Ind will explain the examination findings. Some abnormalities are visible immediately, however, it is often necessary to have a follow-up appointment in a week’s time, to discuss the results in more detail after the biopsy and smear test have been analysed. The clinic will arrange this and answer any questions you may have.
Waiting for test results is stressful, but most women with abnormal results will not develop cancer.
How will I feel after a colposcopy?
Most women feel totally well and able to get up and about straight after colposcopy.
You’ll will be able to go home when you feel ready and it’s safe to get on with normal activities, including driving and working.
You may have some bleeding, especially if biopsies have been taken, so it’s sensible to pop a sanitary pad in. Tampons should not be used. Light bleeding or a brownish discharge can continue for up to 5 days. If the bleeding is heavier than your period, if there are clots or you’re still bleeding after a week you should contact clinic for advice.
Can I return to work after colposcopy?
Most women feel ready to return to work immediately after colposcopy. However, all women are different and some prefer to rest and recover for the rest of the day, particularly if they have physically demanding jobs.
Can I have sex after colposcopy?
If you have had a biopsy of the cervix, the area could be vulnerable to infection. You should avoid sex for five days, or until any bleeding stops. You should also avoid using tampons, vaginal pessaries and any lubricants or vaginal creams during this time,
If your colposcopy has involved treatment to the abnormal cells of the cervix, you will be advised to refrain from intercourse for a month.
What do the colposcopy results mean?
The colposcopy highlights abnormal areas on the cervix and shows the type and extent of any atypical areas. The biopsy offers more detailed information; showing the severity of the abnormality.
The most common type of abnormal cells is called CIN, which stands for Cervical Intra-epithelial Neoplasia. It is graded numerically according to how deep the abnormal cells extend into the surface of the cervix, CIN 1, CIN 2 and CIN 3. If that sounds confusing, click to find out more about CIN and its treatment.
The important thing to remember is that CIN is not cancer, some abnormalities resolve without treatment. However, some abnormal cells could potentially, over time, develop into cancer. The higher the number, the greater the risk, so Mr Thomas Ind usually monitors women with CIN 1 and recommends treatment for CIN 2 and CIN 3. The reassuring news is that treatment of CIN is usually fairly simple and highly effective. The vast majority of women, ninety-five in every hundred, are cured by their first treatment.
For every ten women that have colposcopy, around four will have a normal result. Around six will have an abnormal test showing CIN. Very rarely, colposcopy and biopsy will discover cervical cancer. If this happens, be reassured that Mr Thomas Ind is an experienced gynaecological surgeon with specialist accreditation and experience in the treatment of cancers. Together with the expert team at the clinic, he will explain the diagnosis, arrange for further investigation and treatment and support you through your cancer journey.
What follow up will I need after my colposcopy?
Mr Ind offers follow-up appointments to monitor the health of your cervix and ensure there are no problems. The frequency of follow-up appointments depends on the abnormality found and whether or not you have had treatment.
After therapy for CIN you will usually be seen at least once following treatment. You may require follow-up colposcopy or you may need smears more frequently than you had them before. The clinic will arrange follow-up to suit your needs. You should always ensure that you know when your next smear test or colposcopy should be.
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