Tests and next steps

Main test for vaginal cancer (colposcopy)

See a GP if you have any of the symptoms of vaginal cancer. They will refer you to a specialist for tests.

The specialist will examine your tummy and pelvis, the area between your hips, so they can feel the organs there.

They will also do a test to have a closer look at your vulva and vagina. This is called a colposcopy.

You'll be asked to undress from the waist down, behind a screen. You'll be given a sheet to put over you.

During a colposcopy:

  1. The specialist nurse will ask you to lie back on a bed, usually with your legs bent, feet together and knees apart.
  2. They will gently put a smooth, tube-shaped tool (a speculum) into your vagina. A small amount of lubricant may be used.
  3. A microscope with a light at the end is used to look at your vagina and cervix. The microscope stays outside your body.
  4. A small sample of cells (biopsy) may be collected to send to a laboratory.
  5. The test should take around 15 to 30 minutes.

It should not be painful, but you might find it uncomfortable. Talk to the nurse if you are feeling uncomfortable.

If you have a biopsy, you may have a small amount of bleeding or cramping afterwards.

Getting your results

It can take several weeks to get the results of your colposcopy.

You may be asked to go to the hospital to get your results, or they may be sent to you in the post.

Try not to worry if your results are taking a long time to get to you. It does not definitely mean anything is wrong.

You can call the hospital or GP if you're worried. They should be able to update you.

A specialist will explain what the results mean and what will happen next.

If you're told you have vaginal cancer

Being told you have vaginal cancer can feel overwhelming. You may be feeling anxious about what will happen next.

It can help to bring someone with you to any appointments you have.

A group of specialists will look after you throughout your diagnosis, treatment and beyond.

Your team will include a clinical nurse specialist who will be your main point of contact during and after treatment.

You can ask them any questions you have.


Macmillan Cancer Support has a free helpline that's open every day from 8am to 8pm.

They're there to listen if you have anything you want to talk about.

Call 0808 808 00 00.

Next steps

If you have been told you have vaginal cancer, you'll usually need more tests.

These, along with the colposcopy, will help the specialists find out the size of the cancer and how far it's spread (called the stage).

You may need:

You may not have all of these tests.

The specialists will use the results of these tests and work with you to decide on the best treatment plan for you.

Page last reviewed: 10 August 2021
Next review due: 10 August 2021