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Assessing the cervix

A colposcopy is an examination to check whether there are abnormal cells on your cervix, and if so, how serious they are. This is a follow-up to your cervical screening test. Colposcopy usually takes place in specialist clinics.

A specialist will take a close look at your cervix using a magnifying lens with a light (a colposcope). They may take a small tissue sample (a biopsy) to check any areas of your cervix which look unusual. If the colposcopy confirms there are abnormal cells on your cervix, you may need to have them removed to help prevent cervical cancer.

A colposcopy is performed because of the result of your cervical smear test or abnormal bleeding.  This is usually for one of 4 reasons, which are:

  • some abnormal cells in your cervix and an infection with human papillomavirus (HPV)

  • you have an HPV infection which hasn’t gone away 

  • after your treatment for high grade smears ie LLETZ or cone biopsy

  • you have had several screening tests where we were unable to give you a result (it is likely there is nothing wrong, but a colposcopy can find out for sure)

  • abnormal appearance of the cervix.

Most people who have a colposcopy do not have cervical cancer.