All women between 25-74 years old who have ever been sexually active should undergo regular cervical screening to prevent cervical cancer. It is a simple and short procedure every 5 years (previously 2 yearly) to check the health of your cervix. If the smear detects abnormal cellular changes or the presence of high risk human papillomavirus (HPV) is detected, then you will need a colposcopy.
A colposcopy is a magnifying scope that looks at the cervix to identify abnormal cells, to investigate abnormal cervical smears or cervical pathology. The cervix will be stained with acetic acid (vinegar) and iodine solution to show up abnormal cells. A biopsy (small piece of skin) may be taken of the abnormal part and sent away for pathological diagnosis. The examination can take around 25 minutes, and can feel like a prolonged cervical screening test. To facilitate thorough examination, you should not have your period at the time of colposcopy.