A normal colposcopy result means a person has no cervical cancer cells, including precancerous ones. Abnormal results may indicate a person has cancerous or precancerous cells in their cervix.
Cervical cancer is the
Cervical cancer is often asymptomatic in its early stages, which means doctors may find it challenging to detect. Regular screenings in the form of Pap tests can help detect cervical cancer cells and precancerous cells that may eventually become cancerous.
If a Pap test detects abnormal cervical cells, healthcare professionals may recommend a colposcopy.
A colposcopy is a type of test that can detect cervical cancer. It can also determine a person’s risk of developing this form of cancer.
This article details the colposcopy procedure, including how long it might take to receive results and what those results mean.
During a colposcopy, doctors use a speculum to open the vagina gently. They then insert a microscope into the vagina, allowing them to look more closely at the cervix.
While examining the cervix, the doctor may decide to do a biopsy. During this biopsy, the doctor takes a sample of cervical cells for laboratory testing.
If a healthcare professional does not see anything unusual during the colposcopy, there is generally no follow-up. However, if they find abnormal cells, they may be able to remove them or do a biopsy.
What does a normal result mean?
A normal result means the coloscopy did not detect cancer or precancerous cells.
Someone can have a normal colposcopy result despite having HPV.
What does an abnormal result mean?
An abnormal colposcopy result is when doctors find abnormal cervical cells. If the doctor identifies abnormal cells during the colposcopy procedure, they will likely do a biopsy to determine whether these cells are cancerous. However, this is rare.
A more likely outcome with an abnormal result is that the test found precancerous cells, such as:
- cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN)
- cervical glandular intra-epithelial neoplasia (CGIN)
After analyzing a sample of cervical cells, doctors can determine a person’s risk of cervical cancer.
If the results show that a person has cervical cancer, the next step is to talk with a cancer specialist about possible treatment options, such as:
If the results indicate precancerous CIN or CGIN cells, doctors will assess the risk and recommend next steps:
|CIN1||low risk||a follow-up cervical smear test, or colposcopy, to check the cells|
|CIN2||medium risk||a follow-up colposcopy to check the cells or treatment to remove them|
|CIN3||high risk||a treatment to remove the cells|
|CGIN||high risk||a treatment to remove the cells|
If a person has had a biopsy, their doctor can guide them through their specific biopsy results.
Sometimes, a doctor may recommend further testing after a colposcopy since some evidence suggests colposcopy results are not always reliable.
Data also suggests that colposcopy testing can fail to detect cervical cancer in
Some people may experience
- pain or cramping
If a person is worried about getting a colposcopy, it may help to discuss their anxieties with their doctor.
Aside from support from family, friends, and loved ones, several organizations can provide cervical cancer-related support.
The National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) may be able to provide:
- information about cervical cancer and cervical cancer testing
- inexpensive or free cervical cancer testing
- support for people with cervical cancer and their caregivers.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) also provides more general cancer support, including a 24/7 helpline, free transport to treatment, and free lodging during treatment.
To discover more evidence-based information and resources for cancer, visit our dedicated hub.
A colposcopy is when doctors use a speculum and microscope to examine someone’s cervix. They might also perform a biopsy, removing cervical cells for laboratory testing.
Laboratory tests might come back with the result that someone has cervical cancer or is at a higher risk of developing it.
However, it is very rare to identify cervical cancer from a colposcopy. Always talk with a doctor or another healthcare professional about any concerns.