Why do I need a colposcopy?

You will be invited to have a colposcopy examination because of the result of your cervical screening test (previously called a ‘smear test’). This is usually for one of 4 reasons, which are:

  • Your screening test found some abnormal cells in your cervix and an infection with human papillomavirus (HPV)

  • You have an HPV infection which hasn’t gone away

  • You have had several screening tests but the screening service is unable to give you a result (it is likely there is         nothing wrong, but a colposcopy can provide reassurance)

  • The nurse or doctor who carried out your screening test thought your cervix did not look as healthy as it should

"Fearlessness is like a muscle.

I know from my own life that the more I exercise it the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me."

Arianna Huffington

What is a Colposcopy?

  • C​olposcopy is an examination of your cervix and vagina using a colposcope, which is a special microscope with a light.

  • The colposcope does not go inside you, however, to enable the clinician to see the cervix properly a speculum is inserted to hold the vaginal walls apart, just as when your cervical screening test was taken.

  • The clinician (which may be a doctor or a nurse called a colposcopist) will apply a liquid solution to your cervix to help visually identify any areas of abnormal cells. The abnormal cells appear white.  They will also look for blood vessels and other changes that may appear abnormal​.  Your clinician may decide to take a biopsy of your cervix.

  • A colposcopy is not usually painful, although it may be slightly uncomfortable.

How do I prepare for my colposcopy?

  • First of all don't worry. If you're referred for a colposcopy after an abnormal cervical screening test, you shouldn't assume you have cervical cancer. Less than 1 in 1,000 women referred for a colposcopy are found to have cervical cancer that requires immediate treatment.         

  • Cervical cancer screening is successful because cell changes can occur many years before cancer can develop. Identifying and treating these cell changes at an early stage can prevent cancer from ever developing.

  • If you think you might have your period on the day of your appointment, you may want to call the clinic to arrange a different appointment, but you can come for your appointment during your period if you want to.

  • To make it easier to look at your cervix during your colposcopy, please do not have sex or use vaginal medications, lubricants, or creams for at least 24 hours beforehand.

  • You should take a panty liner to your appointment as you may have a small amount of vaginal discharge after your colposcopy. If you have a small tissue sample taken (a biopsy), you may have some bleeding too.

  • You can bring a friend, partner or a family member with you if you want to.

  What is a biopsy?

  • A biopsy is a tiny piece of cervical tissue that is sent to a lab for further analysis. 


  • Your clinician may be able to tell you what they have found straight away. If you have had a biopsy taken, it will need to be checked in the laboratory. If this happens, you will get your results by post about 4 weeks later.

  • A normal result: 
    About 4 in 10 people who have a colposcopy will have a normal result. If you have a normal colposcopy result, this means that your cervix looks healthy and you have low risk of developing cervical cancer before your next screening test. You can have a normal colposcopy result even if you had an abnormal result in your cervical screening test.

  • Abnormal cells confirmed: 
    About 6 in 10 people will have abnormal cells found at colposcopy. The medical term for abnormal cells is CIN (‘cervical intraepithelial neoplasia’). CIN is not cancer, but it can sometimes go on to develop into cancer. Your colposcopy and biopsy results will show if you need to have the abnormal cells removed or whether they can be left alone for now. This will depend on whether your CIN is ‘low grade’ or ‘high grade’ (see below).

    • CIN 1 (‘low grade’)
      You are unlikely to develop cervical cancer. Often the abnormal cells will go away on their own when your immune system gets rid of the HPV. This happens in most cases.  You will normally be invited for another cervical screening test in 12 months to check whether you still have HPV.

    • CIN 2 or CIN 3 (‘high grade’)
      You have a higher chance of developing cervical cancer than a woman with ‘low grade’ CIN.  Your clinician will normally offer you treatment to remove the abnormal cells as this will lower your risk of developing cervical cancer.

    • Cervical Cancer
      Rarely, someone having a colposcopy will be found to have cervical cancer.  Cancers diagnosed through screening are usually found at an earlier stage. People who have early stage cancers are more likely to survive than people with later stage cancers.

  • Treatment to remove abnormal cells on the cervix. The usual treatment for high grade abnormal cells is to remove them, taking care not to damage the healthy parts of the cervix. The treatment most often used to remove abnormal cells is called LLETZ (‘large loop excision of the transformation zone’). You can find more information about this by searching for ‘colposcopy treatment’ on the NHS.UK website ( 

4 out of 5 women prefer DYSIS for colposcopy*

Hear Emma's story about her experience with DYSIS colposcopy

DYSIS colposcopy is available in many
NHS hospitals throughout the UK. 

Felicia shares her personal experience with DYSIS colposcopy

​*Clinical data and the Global Patient Experience Survey results can be viewed at 

Why choose DYSIS colposcopy?

  • DYSIS colposcopy is a more accurate and precise way to detect abnormal cervical changes.

  • DYSIS is clinically proven to detect more high grade abnormalities than traditional colposcopy alone, especially smaller lesions that may not be visible to the naked eye and are often missed.

  • DYSIS standardises and objectively measures the results of a standard test that is performed during colposcopy. It then displays the results in the form of a colour-coded map, called the DYSISmap, which is a bit like a weather map.


What is special about the DYSISmap?

  • The DYSISmap highlights the areas of the cervix having the most extreme whitening.

  • This helps your clinician select the most appropriate area(s) to biopsy, which can help detect pre-cancers early when they are the most treatable.

  • Clinical studies have shown that when the DYSISmap is used in addition to a visual colposcopy examination, detection of pre-cancerous areas can increase by over 30%.*

  • The DYSISmap can provide additional information to your clinician, allowing for a better right first-time assessment and it also makes it much easier for you to understand your condition too.

* Full clinical evidence can be found at www.dysismedical/clinical-evidence

  • DYSIS can also help with tracking changes by storing and comparing cervical images from visit to  visit. This is helpful because some cervical abnormalities can regress without treatment. 

  • DYSIS is recommended by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) and recognised by the NHS Cervical Screening Programme, Publication 20 Guidelines.


Can I look at the DYSISmap?

DYSIS allows viewing of your procedure (if you choose) and of the DYSISmap,

so you can be better informed about your cervical health.