I have recently had a smear test and the results have come back abnormal. All my previous tests have been perfectly normal. I am really quite scared about it. My GP has referred me for a colposcopy – what actually is this and what will it reveal?
Mr Sam Saidi, Consultant Gynaecologist:
Smear tests are aimed at detecting changes in the cells of the cervix that might predispose to cancer in future years and they are therefore designed to prevent cancers of the cervix. An abnormal smear simply means that a small number of abnormal cells have been detected from the cervix, and this should be investigated with a colposcopy.
Colposcopy is an examination similar to a smear test but performed along with a microscope where a detailed view of the cervix can be obtained and any abnormal areas identified. Most abnormalities return to normal within 12 months without treatment and can simply be monitored. If a more severe abnormality is confirmed, treatment is usually offered as a proportion of these may become cancerous in future years. Treatment is commonly performed by a “loop biopsy” where the abnormal area is removed under local anaesthetic in the colposcopy clinic. Colposcopy itself, biopsies and loop treatments should all be painless. Treatment is highly effective and most treated abnormalities resolve fully without the need for further treatment.