Results of a colposcopy 

After a colposcopy, your colposcopist will usually be able to tell you what they have found straight away.

If there is any uncertainty, a small sample of tissue from the cervix  may need to be removed (a biopsy) for further examination. In some cases, abnormal cells can be treated during your colposcopy.

About 4 out of 10 women who have a colposcopy have a normal result. A normal result means that your cervix appears healthy and you have a low risk of developing cervical cancer before your next screening test. Depending on your age, you'll be invited for a cervical screening appointment in three or five years.

About 6 out of 10 women who have a colposcopy have abnormal cells in their cervix. The most common type of abnormality is known as cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN). CIN isn't cancer, but it can sometimes develop into cancer if left untreated.

Biopsy results

If you've had a biopsy during your colposcopy, the tissue sample will be sent to a laboratory for testing. This will determine the extent of the cell changes in your cervix.You will need to wait about four weeks for your biopsy results to arrive by post.

In some cases, cell abnormalities are detected in the glandular cells found in the inside lining of the birth canal of the cervix. These abnormalities are known as cervical glandular intra-epithelial neoplasia (CGIN). CGIN is less common than CIN.

The detection of CIN or CGIN does not necessarily mean you have cancer, or that you'll develop it.

Grading CIN and CGIN

CIN is graded from one to three. Grade one corresponds to a mild type of abnormality, as detected by your screening test. Grades two and three reflect moderate and severe abnormalities respectively.

CGIN is usually classed as either low-grade or high-grade. In terms of severity and risk, high-grade CGIN is equivalent to CIN 3 (see below).

CIN 1

If you have CIN 1 (low-grade) cells, it's unlikely that you'll develop cancer. The abnormal cells will often disappear without treatment to remove them.

You'll usually be invited for a cervical screening test in 12 months to check that the abnormal cells have gone.

CIN 2, CIN 3 or CGIN

If you have CIN 2, CIN 3 or CGIN (high-grade) cells, your risk of developing cervical cancer is increased.

Removing the abnormal cells will usually be recommended to lower your risk of developing cervical cancer.

Read more about how abnormal cervical cells are removed.

In rare cases, the results of a colposcopy and biopsy will show cervical cancer. If this happens, treatment should be started as soon as possible. You'll be referred to a team of specialists, who will advise you about your treatment.

Cervical cancer diagnosed through screening tends to be found at an earlier stage. Women who have early-stage cancers are more likely to survive than women with later-stage cancers.


Page last reviewed: 15/12/2014

Next review due: 15/12/2016