Good question. If your cervical screening test (CST) indicates abnormal cell changes on the cervix, your GP will refer you to a specialist women’s health clinic, like woom, for a colposcopy.
Abnormal cell changes can be caused by a variety of reasons but the most common one is human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
The cervix is found at the top of the vagina and is the opening to the uterus. There is an area of cells at this opening called the ‘transformation zone’ where the cells change from one type to another as they go from the outside to the inside of the cervical canal. This transformation zone is susceptible to infection from the human papillomavirus, abnormal or premalignant cell changes and cervical cancer.
The National Cervical screening programme recommends women have a cervical screening test every 5 years or annually if HPV is detected starting at age 25. The primary purpose is to screen for precancerous changes, allowing for timely intervention and treatment.
HPV or human papillomavirus is like the common cold of sexual activity and affects both men and women. It is primarily transmitted through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal or oral sex.
There are many different subtypes of HPV, each with its own particular number. Strains of the virus are categorised into high-risk and low-risk based on their potential to cause cancer of the genital tract. High-risk HPV strains are responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancers.
Preventative measures for HPV include vaccination and safe sexual practices. Vaccines are available to protect against certain types of HPV. They are typically administered in adolescence or early adulthood, ideally before your first sexual encounter.
In some cases, we will take small tissue samples of cells that look abnormal (biopsy). These samples will be examined in the lab. We may also take some photographs to add to your records.
The entire procedure only takes about 15 minutes.
Does it hurt?
Some women find insertion of the speculum uncomfortable. Typically, relaxation of the legs and pelvis and deep breathing will help this.
If it is necessary to take small tissue samples, you may feel a short, sharp pain and afterwards you may experience a pelvic cramp similar to period pain. This might last for several minutes.
If a biopsy is taken, we advise not to use tampons or have intercourse for 24-48 hours.
Normally our gynaecologist will recommend a follow-up plan with your GP.
If a biopsy was taken and abnormal (premalignant) cells are detected, you may need treatment to remove those cells. The most common treatment is called a Large Loop Excision of the Transformation Zone or LLETZ.
This procedure can be done under a general or local anaesthetic in an operating theatre. The small segment of the transformation zone containing the abnormal cells is scooped out with a hot wire loop and the base is diathermied (or burnt/sealed) to prevent bleeding. You are able to go home the same day. Normally some discomfort is experienced at the time and for a few hours afterwards and simple analgesia is required.
Private colposcopy Perth
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- Comprehensive approach: We offer a comprehensive, multidisciplinary colposcopy service involving gynaecologists, nurses and pathologists
- Experience: Our gynaecologists are accredited in colposcopy and have years of experience in treating and managing cervical abnormalities.
- Timeliness: You will be seen within 8 weeks of your referral
- Support: We prioritise patient comfort and always provide a supportive environment
- Continuity of care: Complex cases are discussed on a periodic basis with our multidisciplinary team