Accuracy of results
Cervical screening does not prevent all cases of cervical cancer.
It’s possible that abnormalities could be missed. This is why we invite you at regular intervals for a screening test.
Sometimes test results are inaccurate. We call these results 'false positives' and 'false negatives'.
False positives and false negatives are unavoidable. They happen in every screening programme.
False positive results
A result may be reported as positive (abnormal cells) even though there are no changes to cells of the cervix. This is called a 'false positive'.
A false positive may mean you will have further investigations that ultimately confirm there was no risk of cancer at that time.
False negative results
A result may be reported as negative (normal cells) even though there are abnormal cells in the cervix. This is called a 'false negative'.
A false negative may mean that you do not have further investigations when there may have been a risk of cancer at that time. This means, even if your test result is normal, you may still be at risk of developing cervical cancer in the future.
Because of this, it's important that you:
- always pay attention to possible symptoms
- attend your screening tests when they are due
If, at any time, you have concerns or symptoms you should contact your GP immediately. Even if you have had a recent normal screening result, never ignore symptoms.
These symptoms can include:
- a pain in your pelvis (anywhere between your bellybutton and the tops of your thighs)
- irregular vaginal bleeding
- bleeding between periods
- vaginal spotting or discharge
- pain during sex
- bleeding after sex