A colposcopy is an examination of the cervix performed by a specialist gynaecologist to look for any changes in your cervix. If there are any cellular changes, it helps to determine the extent of these changes. This will then help decide whether any treatment is required.

A colposcopy is usually done because you have had an abnormal cervical screening test (previously termed pap smear). It is also done if your GP feels the cervix appears abnormal when performing your cervical screening test. A colposcopy is also needed if you have symptoms suggestive of cervical cancer or pre-cancer (even if your cervical screening test is normal).

The purpose of these examinations is to help diagnose any early cellular changes in the cervix. A decision can then be made regarding whether close monitoring or treatment is appropriate, which helps to prevent the development of cervical cancer. 

Colposcopy should not be painful but may be uncomfortable. It is similar to having a cervical screening test done but does take slightly longer (usually about 5 minutes). A special dye is applied to the cervix which will help identify any abnormal cells and the exact location. This then allows the specialist to determine the extent of these changes. A biopsy (which feels like a quick scratch) of the abnormal area may be done for tissue confirmation. A special gel is then used to seal up this biopsy site. Sometimes after a biopsy, you can experience lower abdominal cramping, which is easily relieved with Nurofen.

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