What is Colposcopy?

Colposcopy is a procedure carried out by a doctor using a colposcope to examine the cervix, lower part of the womb and the top of the vagina. The procedure is similar to a pap smear; it takes about 15 minutes to carry out the procedure.

When is Colposcopy needed?

Colposcopy is recommended after a cervical screening if the result shows

  • Abnormal cell present in the screening sample
  • Unhealthy cervical appearance
  • Inconclusive after several screening
  • Presence of the human papillomavirus or HPV.

You can also be asked to carry out colposcopy if you have unexplained bleeding after your period or sex.

Conditions Diagnosed by Colposcopy

Colposcopy can diagnose

  • Cervical cancer
  • Genital warts
  • vaginal cancer
  • vulva cancer

Before Carrying out Colposcopy

To get the accurate result, a few days before the procedure

  • Avoid the use of vaginal medications, creams, and lubricants
  • Avoid the use of tampons
  • Avoid sexual intercourse
  • Reschedule the day of the appointment if your period is heavy

Go with a panty liner as you may observe light bleeding or discharge after the procedure

Carrying out Colposcopy- the procedure

The procedure is carried out by a specialist (colposcopist) in a hospital. It takes between 15-20 minutes.

You will need to undress from the waist down and be asked to lie down on a special type of with padded support for the legs. A speculum is used to open the vagina gently. A light microscope is used to observe your cervix. A special liquid that makes abnormal cells more visible is applied. The professional carrying out the procedure may choose to remove a small sample of tissue (biopsy) for close examination in the laboratory.

After the Procedure

You can go home immediately the procedureis concluded. Regular activities like driving can be done after the procedure. Brownish vaginal discharge or bleeding may be noticed especially if a biopsy was carried out, this is supposed to cease after 3 days. You would be advised to avoid sex and use of any vaginal product until the bleeding ceases.

Results of Colposcopy

A normal result shows the absence of any abnormal cell, and you do not need to be disturbed, but you may be asked to return for cervical screening in 3 to 5 years.

An abnormal result would indicate the presence of

  • Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN)
  • Cervical glandular intra-epithelial neoplasia (CGIN).
  • In rare cases, cervical cancer may be found

If a biopsy is carried out, the following may be found

  • CIN1- these are abnormal cells unlikely to cause cancer. They usually go on their own without treatment, but cervical screening is to be required in 12 months to check if they have cleared own their own.
  • CIN2- there is a 50/50 chance of these cells becoming cancerous. Treatment of CIN2 is recommended by the physician.
  • CIN3- they are very likely to become cancerous cells and need to be treated to prevent this.
  • CGIN- there is the likelihood of these cells forming cancerous cells. Treatment is recommended.

Treatment of Abnormal Cells

There are different types of treatment for abnormal cells discovered during colposcopy. A treatment option is usually recommended by the physician depending on the type of abnormal cell found.

  • Large Loop Excision of the Transformation Zone (LLETZ) – it is the most common type of treatment. It involves the removal of the abnormal cell using a heated thin wire loop. The thin loop is heated with an electric current. It can be done simultaneously with colposcopy. A local anaesthetic is administered during the procedure, and you can be awake.
  • Cone Biopsy- this treatment is rarely recommended and carried out only if a large area of tissue contains abnormal cells. It involves a minor operation. During the operation, a cone-shaped piece of tissue containing the abnormal cell is cut out.
  • Cryotherapy- this treatment involves freezing of the abnormal cells in the cervix using liquid gas. This leads to their destruction.
  • Laser Treatment- a laser is used to destroy the abnormal cells.
  • Cold Coagulation- heat is applied to the cervix to burn the abnormal cells.
  • Removal of the womb (hysterectomy) – this treatment is considered only when other methods have been used, and the abnormal cells keep developing, and childbirth is no longer needed.

After treatment, it is advisable to avoid the use of tampons, avoid sex, exercise, and swimming for at least two weeks or bleeding and discharge ceases.

Risks and Side Effects of Colposcopy

Some side effects you may experience after treatments are;

Mild pain- the pains may last for a few hours. Over the counter pain killers like ibuprofen can be taken for this.

Vaginal bleeding and brownish discharge- it is possible to experience this for up to 4 weeks. Complications may arise such as


Increased risk of premature birth to be noticed in the future.

Consult your physician as soon as you notice any abnormal sign like increased body temperature, heavy, yellow, smelly vaginal discharge, severe lower abdominal pain after taking a pain killer.