Knowing what will happen at the colposcopy clinic will help you feel better prepared for it.

We know that women who have all the facts about their colposcopy often feel less worried. They also feel better after their colposcopy is over. The doctors and nurses at the colposcopy clinic think it is a good idea for you to look at some of the following information

Colposcopy: What you need to know

You may have to undergo a colposcopy examination or a treatment procedure. Below is more information about colposcopy and treatment:

Colposcopy is a more detailed look at the cervix. Some clinics may be equipped with video screens so that you can watch the examination on a monitor if you wish. A colposcopy examination may take a little longer than a standard cervical screening test, but the colposcopist (a doctor or nurse specifically trained to undertake colposcopy) will talk to you during the examination and tell you what is happening.

They will understand that you may be worried and will take time to discuss your screening result before the examination. The colposcopist will put a number of different liquids on the cervix and look for changes that indicate the presence or otherwise of changes to the cells. If the colposcopist sees any abnormal changes, they will take a biopsy.


A biopsy is often required when the colposcopist sees abnormal changes in cells - this means taking a sample of skin tissue from the cervix for examination under a microscope. Depending on the results of this biopsy the colposcopist will decide whether you need treatment. There are two types of biopsy that could be offered.

The first is a diagnostic biospy (somethimes called a punch biopsy), which is a small biopsy that often doesn't usually require local anaesthetic. Two or three punch biopsies may be taken at the first visit.

The second type of biopsy is a loop excision, which is slightly larger than a punch biopsy and does require local anaesthetic. This type of biopsy is usually a treatment biopsy and sometimes can be performed at the first visit in some clinics. If the colposcopist can immediately tell that you will need treatment this can be done during the same visit - in this case all of the abnormal area is removed and this constitutes the biopsy. Other more invasive types of treatment may require you to come back to the clinic for a separate appointment.


The treatment usually performed is called a LLETZ (Large Loop Excision of the Transformation Zone). The LLETZ is also known as loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP), diathermy loop biopsy or just a loop. The procedure is usually carried out under local anaesthetic, where just the area they are treating is made numb but you are still awake.

What will it feel like?

We know that having some information on how your colposcopy (biospy or treatment) may feel helps women feel better prepared for their procedures AND feel better AFTER their procedures. Most women feel a pinch that may cause discomfort when their biospies are being taken but it is over very quickly. Here are some examples of sensations experienced by women during their procedures:

  • Slight cold sensation-this is normally due to acetic acid (which is similar to vinegar) applied to the cervix
  • Heat/warm sensation
  • Slight stinging sensation

If a woman requires a loop excision (treatment biopsy) or treatment procedure (ususally a LLETZ) to remove abnormal cells, she ususally receives local anaesthetic (in the form of an injection) prior to her treatment. Sometimes women may feel a little bit light-headed or their heart beat may flutter after receiving the anaesthetic but this is a normal reaction.

What can I expect after my procedure?

The nurses and doctors will prepare you on what to expect after your procedure and you may be given written information by the clinic. Remember to ask if you have questions. Most women experience some pain, or bleeding or discharge after their procedures, so it's perfectly normal. Every woman is different so the type and amount of pain, bleeding and discharge varies from woman to woman.

The length of time women can experience these effects also varies, for some women they can last a few hours, for other women a few days. If you are concerned about your pain, bleeding or discharge, your colposcopy clinic will be more than happy to help you.

What happens next?

If you have had a biopsy, you will get a letter with the result within a few weeks. If your result shows that you do not have any changes in the cells of the cervix, you may not need to visit the colposcopy clinic again.

If there are low grade changes, you may need to have a follow-up visit at the colposcopy clinic. If you have changes which are not likely to get better by themselves, you may need to come back for a treatment. Try not to worry.

Will it be painful or embarassing?

"I'd never been to a colposcopy clinic, so being able to see what it looks like beforehand and hearing the nurse say what will happen during it reassured me"
"Feeling more prepared for how the colposcopy may feel and having that information definitely helped me"
"I felt if I'd known that [would be having biopsy taken] in advance I would have been more prepared, it kind of took me by surprise & I got upset because I hadn't been expecting"

What other things can help me have a better experience

Social Support

Some women who have undergone colposcopy and treatment found it helpful to have a close friend or partner with them at the clinic so they could go for a coffee and chat about the procedure (or not!) after.

If you think you can't bring anyone to the clinic with you (e.g. because of work commitments or because someone needs to mind the children), many women talk to someone before they go for their appointment. Lots and lots of women have had colposcopies so chances are you know someone who has been through it and will be able to tell you what to expect!

You may want to go to your appointment alone, but talking to someone about your experience after may help you.

Cerviva is a research group interested in cervical cancer screening and women's health. More info about us can be found at

This work is
funded by

Contact Us

Cervical Check Helpline: 1800 45 45 55

Cork Airport Business Park
Kinsale Road, Cork

© 2020