Colposcopy and treatment of abnormal smear

• Colposcopy is carried out if the smear test shows up abnormalities in the cervical cells. A colposcope is a microscope that magnifies the cervix.

• Colposcopy is a painless, out-patient procedure. You will be asked to lie on your back with your legs in supports.

• A plastic or metal instrument called a speculum is inserted into the vagina to hold the walls of the vagina apart. The speculum is similar to that used for a smear.

• Dilute acetic acid, and possibly iodine, will be painted onto your cervix to show up any abnormalities. Small samples of tissue, called biopsies, may be taken from the cervix and sent to the laboratory for analysis. These procedures do not hurt but may be a bit uncomfortable.

• During colposcopy, abnormal cervical cells can be removed or destroyed in a number of ways. The most common is called loop biopsy or LLETZ. A local anaesthetic is injected to numb your cervix. This is not painful but may be uncomfortable. A small piece of tissue containing the abnormal cells is then removed using an electrical current; the sample removed is about the size of a marble. Other methods involve heating or freezing the area with the abnormal cells, or removing or destroying it using a laser.

• You are likely to have discharge and abnormal bleeding for a few weeks after treatment. If the bleeding is heavy or if the discharge becomes offensive, consult your doctor.