Results - Colposcopy

Your doctor or nurse will often be able to tell you what they've found straight after you have a colposcopy.

Colposcopy is the test which can detect or diagnose cancer. Most people who attend colposcopy after a positive cervical screening test are not found to have cancer.

Normal result

A normal result means no abnormal cells were found. You do not need any immediate treatment.

You will be told to either:

  • come back for a follow-up colposcopy appointment - this is in case abnormal cells develop later on
  • continue with cervical screening as usual - you'll have your next test in 3 years, regardless of your age

Abnormal result

It is not unusual to find abnormal cells in the cervix during a colposcopy. This is not cancer. But it could turn into cancer if you do not have treatment.

If it's clear that you have abnormal cells, you may have treatment to remove the cells immediately.

Your doctor or nurse may take a small sample of tissue from your cervix. It will be examined in a lab. This is called a biopsy.

They will do a biopsy if:

  • a colposcopy confirms that you have abnormal cells
  • it's not clear if you have abnormal cells

This is to see:

  • what the risk of these cells becoming cancerous is
  • if you need treatment

The biopsy result will diagnose if you have cancer or not. The colposcopy team will be able to tell you when to expect your biopsy results - it usually takes a few weeks.

Types of abnormal biopsy results

The 4 different types of abnormal biopsy results are:

CIN 1

It's not likely the cells will become cancerous. They may go away on their own.

Usually, you will not need treatment. You'll normally have another screening test in 12 months to check the abnormal cells are gone.

CIN 2

There's some chance the cells will become cancerous. Treatment to remove them is usually recommended, but not always.

CIN 3

There's a high chance the cells will become cancerous. Treatment to remove them is recommended.

CGIN

There's a high chance the cells will become cancerous. Treatment to remove them is recommended.

Treatments for abnormal cells of the cervix

What happens if cervical cancer is found

In rare cases, a colposcopy and biopsy will find cervical cancer.

If this happens, you'll be referred to a team of specialists to discuss treatment.

Page last reviewed: 19 December 2022
Next review due: 19 December 2025