Having a colposcopy
If your smear test had an abnormal result, you may need an extra check called a colposcopy. You’ll be sent an appointment time for a colposcopy at the public hospital. This is free.
It’s important to go to your appointment even if you don’t have any symptoms.
What is a colposcopy?
A colposcopy is when a specialist examines your cervix using a special microscope called a colposcope. After they’ve done the colposcopy, the specialist will discuss their findings with you.
Sometimes, if they see something that concerns them, they will take a biopsy. This means taking a tiny sample of tissue from your cervix and having it checked it at a laboratory, just to be sure.
Colposcopies are a safe and effective check
Preparing for your appointment
A colposcopy appointment takes about an hour, and it’s free at public hospitals.
When you confirm your appointment, let them know if you have any special needs, like if you’re pregnant.
If you are pregnant, colposcopy is safe for both you and your baby.
If you have to change your appointment – like if your period is due on the day – please ask to change it as soon as possible.
You might like to take a friend or whānau member for support.
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 (just like the one from your smear 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.
- Together you discuss what they’ve found. They might even be able to show you on screen, if you’re interested.
- If they find something unusual, they might recommend you have a biopsy.
- A small biopsy sample is taken straight away – you may feel a cramp, but it only takes a second.
- Your colposcopy test is over and you now can sit up.
- Your biopsy is sent to the lab 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 done again 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 smear test 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.