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Open Access Study protocol

Adverse outcomes after colposcopy

Sarah M Flanagan, Sue Wilson*, David Luesley, Sarah L Damery and Sheila M Greenfield

Author Affiliations

Department of Primary Care Clinical Sciences, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK

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BMC Women's Health 2011, 11:2  doi:10.1186/1472-6874-11-2

Published: 20 January 2011

Abstract

Background

Colposcopy is an essential part of the National Health Service Cervical Screening Programme (NHSCSP). It is used for both diagnosis and treatment of pre-cancerous cells of the cervix.

Despite colposcopy being a commonly performed and relatively invasive procedure, very little research has explored the potential long-term impacts of colposcopic examination upon patient quality of life.

The aim of this study is to investigate and quantify any potential reduction in women's quality of life following a colposcopy procedure. More specifically, the degree of female sexual dysfunction and the excess risk of adverse events in those undergoing colposcopy will be explored. If such risks are identified, these can be communicated to women before undergoing colposcopy. It will also assist in identifying whether there are particular sub-groups at greater risk and if so, this may lead to a re-evaluation of current recommendations concerning colposcopically directed treatments.

Methods/design

Cohort study using postal surveys to assess sexual function and quality of life in women who have attended for colposcopy (cases), compared with those who have not attended colposcopy (controls). The prevalence and excess risk of female sexual dysfunction will be determined. Logistic regression will identify the predictors of adverse outcomes.

Discussion

There are more than 400,000 colposcopy appointments each year in England, of which 134,000 are new referrals. There is some evidence that there may be long-term implications for women treated under colposcopy with respect to adverse obstetric outcomes, persisting anxiety, increased rates of sexual dysfunction and reduced quality of life. Reliably establishing whether such adverse outcomes exist and the excess risk of adverse events will facilitate informed decision-making and patient choice.