What is a colposcopy?

A colposcopy is a close examination of the cervix and vagina. It uses an instrument called a colposcope. The doctor checks the cervix for any unusual changes to the cells.

Who needs a colposcopy?

Women who have:

  • High risk HPV 16 or 18 on CST (Cervical Screening Test)
  • High risk HPV (not 16/18) on two consecutive CST's
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Abnormal cervical appearance

How does a colposcopy differ from a Pap test?

A CST is a screening test checking for high risk HPV types and anormal cells on the cervix. A colposcopy is a more detailed examination of the cervix to confirm abnormalities and assess the need for treatment. It usually takes about 10 minutes.

How is a colposcopy done?

You will be asked to undress from the waist down and lie on an examination bed.
Once you are comfortable, the doctor will put a speculum into the vagina, like having a CST. The doctor will paint the cervix with a solution to highlight any abnormal areas, and then place the colposcope at the entrance of the vagina. The colposcope itself does not enter the body. The doctor will look through the colposcope to carefully examine the cervix. If abnormal cells are visible, the doctor may perform a biopsy.

What is a biopsy?

During a biopsy, the doctor takes a sample of abnormal cell tissue from the surface of the cervix. Biopsies are not usually painful, but you may have some discomfort. The samples are sent to a laboratory. It takes up to two weeks for results to come back to your doctor.

When your results come back, your doctor will recommend one of the following:

  • treatment
  • a repeat colposcopy at a later date
  • more frequent CST; or
  • no further action

What should I do after a biopsy?

You may have some discomfort for a short time after a biopsy, often similar to period pain. You should avoid heavy physical exercise, sexual intercourse, swimming, bathing and spas for 24-48 hours after the biopsy. Having a shower is fine. These procedures are to lower the risk of bleeding and infection. You should wear a sanitary pad after the procedure as there may be some spot bleeding for a few days.

What do I need to do before a colposcopy?

Doctors prefer not to do a colposcopy when a women has her period. Some women have cramping (similar to period pain) during the colposcopy. It may help to take some pain relief, paracetemol or an anti-inflammatory normally used for period pain an hour before the colposcopy.

What costs are associated with my colposcopy?

The costs will be given to you at the time of booking your appointment. There will be a partial rebate from Medicare. You may also receive an account from the pathology provider.