Colposcopy is a diagnostic procedure using a special microscope called a colposcope to inspect a woman's cervix or vagina for abnormal cells.
This test may be arranged if there are concerns after a routine cervical screening test.
This additional test may be carried out in around 1 in 100 cervical screening tests where moderate, or in about 1 in 200 cervical screening tests where severe, cell changes are found that are suspicious and may need treatment to reduce the risk of cervical cancer developing.
Apart from follow-up from routine screening, colposcopy may be recommended for symptoms such as unexplained vaginal bleeding, inflamed cervix, polyps and cysts, or genital warts on the cervix.
The clinic carrying out the test needs to know whether your period is due, and may need to rebook the appointment.
You may be advised to take panty liners to the appointment, as there can be discharge afterwards. Additional aftercare instructions will be given.
The procedure will be carried out by a specially trained colposcopist.
The test is done lying on a special bed, undressed from the waist down, with knees bent, with leg supports if needed.
Similar to cervical screening, a speculum is used to open and hold open the vagina.
A dye or stain may be used on the cervix to make any abnormal cells easier to see.
The colposcope is used to look at the cervix from outside of the vagina.
If abnormal cells are suspected, a tissue sample or biopsy is taken for laboratory testing.
The results of the colposcopy may be given through the doctor who arranged the test, or in some cases abnormal cells may be treated during the colposcopy procedure itself.