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Colposcopy and biopsy

If you have a higher risk result your healthcare provider will refer you to a colposcopy clinic or a gynaecologist who is experienced in colposcopy examinations. Your healthcare provider can help you decide who to see for the colposcopy.

When you arrive for the appointment, it is fine to ask as many questions about the test as you like. Ask the specialist to explain what they are doing throughout the examination if that will help you. You can ask your specialist to explain what it means if something is found during the examination.

Find out more information about what happens if you are referred to a specialist.

What is a colposcopy?

A colposcopy is an examination of your cervix. During this examination, the specialist will use a device called a colposcope, which looks like a pair of binoculars on a stand; providing a magnified view of your cervix.

How is a colposcopy test done?

To have a colposcopy test, you will be asked to lie on an examination bed with your legs supported, in a similar position to when you have had a pap test or a Cervical Screening Test. Like the Cervical Screening Test or pap test, the specialist will insert a speculum into your vagina. The specialist will then put a special liquid on to your cervix to highlight any abnormal areas. The specialist will then look through the colposcope to carefully examine your cervix. The colposcope itself does not enter the body.

How long does a colposcopy take?

This examination usually takes 10 to 15 minutes and most people do not experience any pain. However, you may have some discomfort from having the speculum inside your vagina. 

What is a biopsy?

If areas of your cervix appear abnormal during the colposcopy, a small sample of tissue (a biopsy) may be taken from any abnormal looking areas of the cervix. This sample will be sent to a laboratory for testing. It may take up to two weeks for the results of your biopsy to come back to your healthcare provider. You should make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss the results and talk about treatment (if needed).

What can/can't I do after a biopsy?

If you have a biopsy, you may have some pain for a short time. Avoid rigorous exercise for 24 hours after a biopsy and it is best to avoid sexual intercourse for one to two days. You can shower, however avoid swimming, bathing and spas for one to two days. These precautions reduce your risk of bleeding and/or infection. You may have some discharge and ‘spotting’ for a few hours afterwards, so it is a good idea to take a thin sanitary pad or panty liner to the appointment.

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