If You Need Further Testing

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If you have received an abnormal cervical screening result you may be referred to a specialist for a colposcopy. This does not mean you have cancer.

What is a colposcopy?

A colposcopy procedure examines the cervix using a microscope called a colposcope. It is preformed by a specialist, who will look for any abnormal cells on the cervix.

This procedure takes about five to ten minutes. It does not require a hospital stay, freezing or pain medication.

The specialist will examine the cervix and, if needed, a small tissue sample may be taken from the cervix.

What happens during a colposcopy?

The exam starts off much like a Pap test. An instrument called a speculum will be inserted into your vagina to allow the cervix to be seen.

Then, a solution will be applied to the cervix to help highlight any abnormal areas. If needed, the specialist will take a small sample of the tissue. This sample will be sent to the lab for examination to help determine if you need further treatment.

What happens after a colposcopy?

There may be some bleeding or spotting if a tissue sample was taken. You may need to wear a light pad or tampon. Spotting should stop within 24-48 hours.

When you receive your colposcopy results, your specialist may recommend the following:

  • You can return to your regular cervical screening schedule;
  • Repeat Pap testing; or,
  • Repeat colposcopy or other treatment.

Cell changes can often be treated successfully so that cancer does not develop.

What other treatment could be recommended?

Your healthcare provider will discuss the procedures and treatments available, including:

  • Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP), a surgery that uses a thin wire loop to remove the abnormal tissue.
  • Laser therapy, which destroys tissue with a laser beam.
  • Cone biopsy, where a cone-shaped piece of abnormal tissue is removed from the cervix.
  • Cryotherapy, which destroys tissue by freezing.


Additional Questions

I had an abnormal Pap test result/I have been referred for colposcopy. Do I have cancer?

It is quite common to be told you have had an abnormal Pap and it does not mean that you have cancer. Most cervical cell changes are noticed early on with Pap testing and either resolve on their own or are easily treated before they can develop into cancer.

It is rare for someone with an abnormal result to have cervical cancer; however, when abnormal cells are found further testing may be needed. If you have an abnormal Pap, your results letter from the Screening Program for Cervical Cancer will state the recommended follow-up and advise you to contact your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider will contact you for an appointment to discuss your results and any follow-up tests you may need. You may be asked to go for repeat Pap tests or be referred to a specialist for a colposcopy. It is very important to attend any recommended follow-up appointments.

I am pregnant. Is it safe for me to have a colposcopy?

It is safe to have a colposcopy done during pregnancy or after delivery. Speak with you healthcare provider about your situation. The decision to have a colposcopy when pregnant should be made with you and your healthcare provider. Learn more about abnormal Pap tests while pregnant by visiting the Saskatchewan Health Authority website.


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