What is a colposcopy and why do I need one?

  • By Dr Emma Boulton
  • ●    05 Oct 2018

Have you been told you need a colposcopy? That’s good! Colposcopy is a really good way of getting more information about what’s happening inside your body, which may help prevent serious gynaecological conditions from developing.

Think of it as being an early warning system or part of a comprehensive plan for excellence in women’s health. It may feel a bit undignified (like most gynaecological procedures) but it is not recommended unnecessarily. If it has been suggested that you have a colposcopy, please don’t ignore it – it could save your life!


What is a Colposcopy?

Colposcopy involves using a powerful microscope to take a really close look at the cervix. This is because there may be some abnormalities which cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Colposcopy is usually used to look at the cervix after an abnormal pap smear but can be used to check anything unusual around the vulva or in the vagina.

Why do I need a Colposcopy?

Women who have had unexplained bleeding after sex or in-between periods may be recommended to have a colposcopy. This is because there may be treatable abnormalities in the cervix such as precancerous changes.

Having an abnormal pap smear/test doesn’t mean that a woman has cancer. However, a colposcopy may be recommended in order to exclude a sinister cause for the abnormality.

Colposcopy may also be used as a checking test, for instance after pre-cancerous cells have been removed, and thus making sure that the treatment was successful.

What will happen during the Colposcopy?

The gynaecologist may use acetic acid or Lugols solution (iodine) to help certain cells stand out more under the colposcope. It is common for a biopsy to be taken during colposcopy i.e. a tiny fragment of tissue removed and sent to the lab for further analysis. This is because a pap smear is not accurate enough to determine what, if any, treatment is required.

Colposcopy can easily be performed as an awake procedure as it’s like having a pap test, though you’ll be examined by the doctor for a longer time. Or, if you prefer, at Clinic 66, you can have a colposcopy under sedation (light anaesthetic) so you can feel very relaxed and comfortable.

If you have been told that you should have a colposcopy, you can ring and refer yourself today to Clinic 66, or get your GP to refer you with a letter.

Do I still need a Pap test?

You may have heard that the screening program for cervical cancer has changed. The new program started in 2017, and the Pap test was replaced by a more powerful and sensitive test. This means that women in Australia will only need to have a cervical cancer screening test every 5 years instead of every 2 years. The test will look for HPV, which is the virus which causes cervical cancer.

All women, whether, they have had HPV vaccination or not, will still have a cervical cancer screening test. HPV vaccination reduces the chances of developing cervical cancer but screening is still required.

In the past, all women who have ever been sexually active, from the ages of 18 up to the age of 69 years, were expected to have Pap tests. Under the new protocol, women will start having cervical cancer screening from 25 years and will have an exit test at 70-74 years. Women who have never been sexually active do not need to have cervical cancer screening.

Let’s talk about it

If in doubt, ask your Clinic 66 doctor, call and speak to one of our experts or you can ask your questions via our discreet online form and one of our professional team will get back to you asap.

Don’t hesitate to come in and see our specialists who do this stuff every day. We know its no fun, but we’ll make it as comfortable as it possibly can be.


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