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Patients & Visitors



What to Expect

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About the Procedure

Why are you coming for a colposcopy?

Most women have a colposcopy because the smear that was taken from the cervix has shown some abnormal cells. Often this is not serious but you need a more detailed examination called a colposcopy.

What might happen?

The focus of your appointment is a consultation with a specialist. You will be offered an consultation that includes an explanation of why the GP referred you, and an opportunity to ask any questions you like. You will probably choose to be examined and you may want treatment at this visit.

What is a colposcopy?

Colposcopy means looking at the cervix with a high powered microscope. This is carried out in the same way as your smear test. During the examination, two or three solutions will be applied to the cervix and the doctor / nurse will look at your cervix using a microscope. The microscope does not touch you or go inside you, it just magnifies what the doctor / nurse sees so that any abnormal areas can be seen more clearly.

Colposcopy is an examination which shows where the changed cells are and what they look like. It is a great help in deciding whether treatment is necessary and if so, what type of treatment would be best. The colposcope is a binocular microscope on a stand (see box 3). It doesn't go inside but in order that the doctor (colposcopist) can see the cervix properly, the doctor looks at the cervix in the same way as (s)he looks when taking a smear. A light is then shone down the passage onto the cervix. If your legs are in leg-rests and they don't feel comfortable so before the examination as the rests can be adjusted.

After taking a smear test the colposcopist will dab the cervix with different liquids which will show up the features of the cells. None of this is likely to hurt, though you may be a bit uncomfortable and undignified. The colposcopist will probably take a tiny sample (or possibly more than one) of surface tissue to send for examination in the path lab as a further check. You may or may not feel this procedure. A photograph may be taken as a record - this is standard procedure in some places. The examination will take longer than the smear test (approximately 10 minutes) because the colposcopist needs to have a careful look at the cervix.

You can, if you wish, see your own cervix on a closed-circuit television screen attached to the colposcope. Tell the nurse in advance so she can set up the equipment.

After the examination the colposcopist is in a better position to put you in the picture. This is the time to ask if your companion can come in. Two heads are better than one for retaining information and having someone with you can help you feel more confident about asking questions. S/he may be able to tell you then and there whether s/he thinks treatment is necessary and if so what treatment would be recommended. On the other hand, it may be necessary to have confirmation from the smear and tissue sample(s) taken and this will take a week or two.

How long does a colposcopy take?

The colposcopy examination lasts approximately ten minutes. Treatment can be carried out at the same time but this may take a little longer.

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Before the Procedure - Your consent

Please print and complete the Consent form below and bring it with you when you come in for you procedure

Colposcopy Consent Form

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On the day

Can I eat and drink prior to colposcopy?

You can eat and drink as you would normally before your colposcopy.

If you would like to discuss anything regarding your forthcoming appointment, please do not hesitate to contact the Colposcopy Clinic on Bath (01225) 824666 and speak to Anna Donovan the Colposcopy Nurse Practitioner.

Will I have to wait?

Your time is precious and we want to keep any waiting to a minimum. We try very hard to match your appointment time to our resources. Unfortunately, the clinic you are attending can involves personal and complex consultations. It is impossible to predict how long a consultation will take. This may mean that a consultation may run a long time over its allotted slot and this means that the clinic overruns and a queue develops.

In addition, unexpected emergencies can pull doctors or nurses out of the clinic and this also leads to delays. Some of the doctors in the clinic are regional specialists and may spend the morning at other hospitals or in operating theatres and they may be delayed. We will try very hard to avoid this because it is very frustrating for you if your time is wasted. We will keep you informed of significant delays. However, we will make sure you have all the time you need once your consultation begins. You will not be rushed.

Do I need anyone with me?

It can be invaluable if a friend, family or partner comes with you. It can be useful to have company if you have to wait and it often is useful for them to hear the consultation. This helps you discuss issues afterwards and may generate helpful questions.

They will not be present during the examination but a nurse will be present to provide support and help with any questions you may ask.

If you have young children you should try and arrange for someone to look after them rather than bring them to clinic.

What if my period is due?

The examination can still be done when you have period. However you may choose to re-book the appointment for the following week.

Please ring Gynaecology Out-Patient Appointments on on 01225 824646 if you need to change your appointment.

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After the Treatment

What can I expect after the treatment?

Having any sort of gynaecological treatment is undignified and quite natural for women to worry about it. This can create some anxiety and it is not unusual to feel emotionally exhausted once it is all over and this can last for a day or so. This is more to do with the anticipation of having any procedure rather than the procedure itself.

Can I go straight back to work / college?

Immediately following colposcopy you will be able to carry on as normal (this includes going back to work / college and driving). However, if you have had any treatment carried out, many women choose to take things easy for the rest of the day.

What happens next?

Should you require treatment, it may be possible for this to be done at the same time, using a local anaesthetic. Sometimes the doctor / nurse may decide to take a tiny sample instead. This is then sent to the laboratory for a more detailed examination and you will be given another appointment to attend the clinic for the results and to arrange further treatment if necessary.

When is it safe to have intercourse?

This depends on the type of treatment you may have had. The doctor or nurse will advise you personally. At this time you will also be given information about what to expect regarding vaginal discharge and bleeding as this too depends on the type of treatment you have had.

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Further Info


Every consultant was once a student. They must learn medicine or the next generation of doctors will not be adequately trained. However, this does not mean that you need to have a student listening to your story. No one will examine you without your permission and no student will be involved without your consent. A student will not perform an internal examination unless you specifically sanction this. Do not feel under any pressure and no one will be offended if you prefer to exclude a student.


A record is always taken of the consultation and your doctor will receive feedback. Pictures may be taken to form part of your clinical record. No other specific personal information about you or your illness can be released to anyone, however closely related, without your consent.

Your medical records may be confidential to others but you can see them at any time. All you have to do is write to the general manager and be prepared to cover the copying costs. You may want a copy of the letter that is sent to your GP. All you have to do is bring a stamped addressed envelope and we will try to organise this. You may want a record of the consultation. Do not forget that one option is to bring a tape recorder.

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