A colposcopy is a simple procedure that allows for a detailed examination of the cervix (neck of the womb), vagina and vulva. This enables the doctor to assess for and treat abnormalities.

Why have a colposcopy?

You may have been referred for colposcopy because a cervical screening test (smear test) has shown evidence of abnormal cells and high-risk HPV.

Some women are seen in the clinic who have never had an abnormal smear. Their GP has referred them because of uncertainty about the appearance of the cervix, vulva, vagina or because a satisfactory smear cannot be obtained.

What happens during a colposcopy?

A specialist called a colposcopist carries out the colposcopy. This may be a doctor or a specially trained nurse.

Following assessment, you would be advised on management. This could be a simple reassurance, biopsy or a treatment.

Biopsy: A small sample of tissue (a biopsy) may be removed for closer examination in a laboratory –this shouldn’t be painful, but you may feel a slight pinch or stinging sensation

Treatment: The main treatment performed is called a large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ). This treatment is very quick and is performed under local anaesthetic. This is either done at your first visit or after an initial biopsy. A very small proportion of women may need to have this under general anaesthetic as a day case procedure.

Other treatments can be performed for other problems affecting the cervix such as ‘cold coagulation’ cautery, which is again performed under local anaesthetic.

What if I am pregnant?

Colposcopy can be done safely during pregnancy and will not affect delivery of your baby, nor will it affect your ability to become pregnant in the future. However, treatment is usually postponed until after the delivery of your baby. Very occasionally biopsies may need to be taken during pregnancy.

Please contact and inform the colposcopy coordinator if you are pregnant. This is so an appointment is made with a colposcopist who has expertise in this area.

Further information

If you are anticipating the need for treatment, it is advisable to take simple pain killers, such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen, one hour prior to the procedure to help with the mild discomfort you may feel.

If you think your period might arrive around the time of your appointment then continue the contraceptive pill without a break if you are already on it. For others, you should usually still be able to have the procedure, so please attend.

You can see our information leaflets and consent forms on the Trust’s dedicated patient information leaflets page – just scroll down to gynaecology.

Where are the clinics located?

  • Lister Hospital – Colposcopy clinic is situated in Bancroft clinic area at the Lister.
  • Hertford County Hospital – Clinic is located on the first floor in clinic room C.

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How to contact us

If you would like to speak with a member of the team please contact us on:

Bev Swallow (lead nurse colposcopy) - 01438 286062

Cristina Stan (colposcopy coordinator) - 01438 286177

Lisa Curtis (colposcopy secretary) - 01438 286174

Paige Roberts (colposcopy administrator) - 01438 286171

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