Laser treatment for abnormal cells in the vagina

You may have laser treatment to treat abnormal cells in the lining of the vagina. These abnormal cells are called vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN).

What is laser treatment?

A laser is a very thin, focused beam of light that heats the tissue it is directed at. Lasers can focus very accurately on tiny areas. 

The doctor uses the laser beam to remove the abnormal cells in the vagina by gently burning them away. This is called laser ablation.

An advantage of using a laser is that it seals off the blood vessels as it treats the area. This can help reduce the risk of bleeding.

Preparing for laser treatment

Your appointment letter will tell you where to go and if you need to do anything to prepare.

Before your treatment, you can usually eat and drink and take your medication as normal. But if you take blood thinning medication you might need to stop these before your treatment. Check with the department beforehand if you are not sure.

How you have it

You usually have laser treatment as an outpatient appointment. 

To start, you undress your lower half or you may have a gown to put on. You then lie on your back on a couch with your legs raised up in stirrups with a sterile sheet over your waist and pelvic area. Your doctor puts a speculum into your vagina to hold it open and then puts local anaesthetic onto your vaginal wall to numb the area. 

Your doctor may use a colposcope to see changes in the vagina that may be too small to see with the naked eye. A colposcope is a large magnifying glass that your doctor uses to look at the surface of the vagina. 

You might have some samples of tissue (biopsies) taken before the laser treatment. Your doctor sends the samples to the laboratory so that the cells can be examined.

Your doctor points the laser beam at the abnormal areas. The laser burns away the abnormal area, so you may notice a slight burning smell during the treatment. This is nothing to worry about. It is just the laser working.

Some people might have this treatment under a general anaesthetic. This means you are asleep while you have the treatment and wake up when it's finished.

After laser treatment

You can get dressed and go home afterwards. You can get back to normal straight away but avoid doing anything too strenuous for the rest of the day.

You may have period type pains for the rest of the day. Simple painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen usually help.

You should expect to have some bleeding or discharge for some days after the treatment. Use a sanitary towel. Don't use tampons for a few weeks afterwards. This allows the area to heal. Check with your nurse or doctor when you can start using tampons again.

You should not have vaginal intercourse for about a month after treatment, while the area is healing. Ask your doctor or nurse when it’s safe to start having vaginal intercourse again. 

Some people may have more than one treatment, your doctor will let you know if this applies to you.

Your nurse will go through what to expect afterward. They will tell you who to contact if you have any concerns or questions. They will also tell you what follow up appointments you may need. 

Last reviewed: 
03 Mar 2022
Next review due: 
03 Mar 2025
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