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Further tests

If you have been referred to a specialist there are a number of tests they might do.

Colposcopy: colposcopy is an examination of your cervix. The specialist uses a tool called a colposcope, which looks like binoculars on a stand, to get a magnified view of your cervix.

When you arrive for your appointment, remember it is fine to ask as many questions as you like. If you feel it will help you, ask the specialist to explain what they will do, and to keep explaining what they are doing throughout the examination.

To have the colposcopy, you will lie on a bed with your legs supported. Like the Cervical Screening Test, the specialist will insert a speculum in your vagina, and then put a special liquid on your cervix to highlight any abnormal areas. The specialist looks carefully at your cervix through the colposcope. The colposcope does not enter your body.

A colposcopy usually takes about 10–to15 minutes. It should not cause pain, but it can be uncomfortable having the speculum in your vagina.

Biopsy: During the colposcopy, if areas of your cervix appear abnormal, the specialist may take a small sample of tissue for testing. This is called a biopsy.

It may take up to two weeks for the result of your biopsy to come back to your healthcare provider.

A biopsy can cause some pain, and you may have to avoid some activities such as rigorous exercise. Ask your specialist to let you know what you can and can’t do after a biopsy.

If an abnormality is found during your colposcopy, you may need further treatment such as a wire loop excision, laser treatment, or a cone biopsy.

Wire loop excision: Abnormal cells are removed from your cervix with a wire loop. This usually takes 15–to30 minutes. Most women have the procedure with a local anaesthetic, but some women need a general anaesthetic. If a general anaesthetic is advised or preferred, a one-day hospital stay may be necessary.

Laser: Laser treatment removes the abnormal cells using heat from a laser beam, which usually takes 15–to30 minutes. Most women have the procedure with a local anaesthetic, however some need a general anaesthetic which may require a one-day hospital stay.

Cone biopsy: A minor operation to remove a cone-shaped section of the cervix  containing abnormal cells. A general anaesthetic is usually needed, and a day or overnight hospital stay may be necessary.