Freephone information line: 1800 45 45 55

Attending colposcopy

  1. Attending a colposcopy clinic
  2. The colposcopy examination
  3. Cervical biopsy
  4. Treatment at colposcopy
  5. Combined smear and HPV test

Attending a colposcopy clinic

A woman can eat and drink normally before a colposcopy.

Women are recommended to attend their appointment even if having their period or if it is due. The clinic may be contacted if there are any questions.

If a woman is pregnant, it is important to attend the colposcopy appointment. A colposcopy can be done safely during pregnancy. The doctor or nurse in the colposcopy clinic will discuss care during pregnancy.

A woman may wish to have a partner, a friend or relative with her. A nurse will be there to provide support and answer any questions. If the woman has young children, she should try and arrange for someone to look after them rather than bring them to the clinic.

The dedicated staff at the colposcopy clinic will understand a woman’s concerns and will take time to discuss the smear test result and the colposcopy examination.

Before the colposcopy examination, the doctor or nurse will:

  • ask for medical history
  • explain the colposcopy examination
  • explain any possible treatments for abnormal cell changes
  • explain any risks linked to the treatment, and
  • ask for consent.

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The colposcopy examination

A colposcopy is a simple examination that is carried out in the same way as a smear test. A doctor or nurse will look at the cervix using a type of microscope called a colposcope. The examination is carried out on a purpose-built couch. The colposcopist will gently insert a speculum into the vagina, just as when the smear test was taken. The colposcope does not touch or go inside the body, it just magnifies the area so that any abnormal areas or cell changes can be seen more clearly. During the examination, liquids or dyes may be applied to the cervix to help identify any changes to the cells.

The colposcopy examination helps to determine if treatment is required or not.

The colposcopy examination takes about 15 minutes. If treatment is carried out at the same time, it may take a little longer.

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Cervical biopsy

If the colposcopist sees any abnormal area, they may take a small sample of tissue from the surface of the cervix. This is called a cervical biopsy. There may be a slight pinching sensation.  The sample is sent to the laboratory for assessment.

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Treatment at colposcopy

The colposcopist may decide to treat the area by removing the abnormal surface cells on the cervix under local anaesthetic using a very fine, heated wire loop. This is called a LLETZ. This is sent to the laboratory for assessment.

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Combined smear and HPV test

A combined smear test and HPV test may be carried out on the same sample following a treatment at colposcopy or where there are persistent low grade cell changes.

The smear test sample taken at the colposcopy clinic is checked in the laboratory for cell changes and the HPV test is done using the same sample. The results are provided to the colposcopy clinic.

The result of the combined test enables the doctor to determine if further follow up at the colposcopy clinic is required or if a woman may be advised to return to routine screening with her GP or smeartaker.

To read further: About your combined smear and HPV test

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Is cuid den tSeirbhís Náisiúnta Scagthástála é CervicalCheck
Bosca Oifig Phoist 161, Luimneach
Saorghlao 1800 45 45 55
CervicalCheck is part of the National Cancer Screening Service
PO Box 161 Limerick
Freephone 1800 45 45 55

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Is cuid den Rannóg Sláinte agus Folláine i bhFeidhmeannacht na Seirbhíse Sláinte í an tSeirbhís Náisiúnta Scagthástála. Cuimsíonn sí BreastCheck – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Cíoch, CervicalCheck – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Ceirbheacs, BowelScreen – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Putóige agus Diabetic RetinaScreen – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Reitiní do Dhiaibéitigh.

The National Screening Service is part of the Health and Wellbeing Division of the Health Service Executive. It encompasses BreastCheck – The National Breast Screening Programme, CervicalCheck – The National Cervical Screening Programme, BowelScreen – The National Bowel Screening Programme and Diabetic RetinaScreen – The National Diabetic Retinal Screening Programme.