After a colposcopy, the doctor or nurse will often be able to tell you what they've found straight away.
If they take a biopsy (remove a small sample of tissue to be examined in a laboratory), you may need to wait 4 to 8 weeks to receive your result by post.
About 4 in every 10 people who have a colposcopy have a normal result.
This means no abnormal cells were found in your cervix during the colposcopy and/or biopsy and you do not need any immediate treatment.
You'll be advised to continue with cervical screening as usual, in case abnormal cells develop later on.
Depending on your age, you'll be invited for a cervical screening appointment in 3 or 5 years.
About 6 in every 10 people have abnormal cells in their cervix – known as cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN) or cervical glandular intra-epithelial neoplasia (CGIN).
This is not cancer, but there's a risk it could turn into cancer if untreated.
Abnormal cells may be detected while a colposcopy is carried out, but a biopsy will be needed to determine what the risk of these becoming cancerous is and whether treatment is needed.
The different types of abnormal biopsy result and what they mean are as follows:
- CIN 1 – it's unlikely the cells will become cancerous and they may go away on their own; no treatment is needed and you'll be invited for a cervical screening test in 12 months to check they've gone
- CIN 2 – there's a moderate chance the cells will become cancerous and treatment to remove them is usually recommended
- CIN 3 – there's a high chance the cells will become cancerous and treatment to remove them is recommended
- CGIN – there's a high chance the cells will become cancerous and treatment to remove them is recommended
Read more about treatments for abnormal cells from the cervix.
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.
Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust has more information about biopsy results.