Having a colposcopy
If your smear test had an abnormal result, you may need an extra check called a colposcopy. You may also need this because your health provider recommends your cervix is checked.
Colposcopy at a public hospital is free if you are eligible to receive public health services in New Zealand. You can also arrange to be seen at a private clinic.
What is a colposcopy?
During a colposcopy a specialist examines the cells in your cervix using a microscope called a colposcope.
It’s important to go to your appointment even if you don’t have any symptoms
Colposcopies are a safe and effective check
Before your appointment
The actual colposcopy only takes about 15 minutes, but you will probably be at the clinic about an hour.
You are welcome to bring someone to support you, such as your partner, a family or whānau member, or friend.
When you confirm your appointment, let them know if you have any special needs, for example if you’re pregnant.
It is safe to have a colposcopy when you are pregnant. However, it is unlikely a biopsy or treatment will be recommended during this time.
If you have to change your appointment – such as your period is due on the day of your appointment – please ask to change it as soon as possible.
Having a colposcopy
- First, the specialist nurse or doctor asks some questions about your health.
- Your specialist will explain the procedure and what you can expect. This is a good time for you to ask them any questions you have about the test.
- They will check the date of your last period for reference.
- You then lie comfortably on a bed, using leg rests so the specialist can get a clear view of your cervix through the colposcope. The scope won’t touch you during the test.
- Your specialist uses a speculum (ike the one used when you had your cervical screening test) to make examining your cervix easier.
- They also paint a liquid onto the surface of your cervix to make the cells show up better.
- Some small tissue samples may be taken (a biopsy).
- When the sample is taken you may feel a cramp, but it only takes a second.
- Your biopsy is sent to the laboratory for testing.
- About a month later, your specialist gets your biopsy results and contacts you to explain the results.
- Very occasionally, your colposcopy may have to be repeated because your biopsy results weren’t conclusive.
- If your result means you need some form of treatment, they will discuss treatment options with you.
- Your colposcopy results are stored with your cervical screening results in the National Cervical Screening Programme register.
Early treatment has a 95% success rate
After your colposcopy
After the colposcopy you might feel some cramping, like period pains. You can treat this like normal period pain.
If you had a biopsy, you may also get some bleeding or reddish discharge from your vagina, which may last a few days. This is normal and should stop within a week. If it lasts longer than a week, call your colposcopy clinic straight away.
Until the bleeding stops, do the following to help your cervix heal.
- Use sanitary pads, not tampons.
- Have showers instead of baths.
- Don’t have sex.
- Don’t use spa pools and swimming pools.
If you start to bleed more than when you have your period, or if the bleeding goes on for more than a week, phone the clinic for advice.
Getting Your Results
You can read more about getting your biopsy results here.
The National Cervical Screening Programme
When you have a cervical screening or colposcopy test you are enrolled in the Programme unless you choose not to be. Further information can be found here.
If you have specific questions about your appointment contact the colposcopy clinic or your health provider.