We use cookies on this website. By using this site, you agree that we may store and access cookies on your device.

Types of results

1. How you get your results
2. Types of results
3. Accuracy of results
4. Open disclosure


Normal results - no abnormality detected

Most screening tests are found to be normal (negative). This means that no abnormalities were found. Your cervical cells appear to be normal.

If you are aged 25 to 44 you:

  • should continue to attend regular screening
  • will have your next free screening test in 3 years

If you are aged 45 to 60 you:

  • should continue to attend routine screening
  • will have your next free screening test in 3 or 5 years - your smeartaker will tell you when exactly

You will get a letter from us in advance of your next screening test. You may need to have screening tests more often depending on:

  • your medical history
  • if you have had a colposcopy
  • if you had treatment following a colposcopy

Unsatisfactory results

If your result is unsatisfactory, this means that the lab could not read your screening test. This may be because:

  • not enough cells were collected
  • the cells couldn't be seen clearly enough
  • inflammation was present

You will need to have a repeat screening test in 3 months time. You need to wait 3 months so that the cells in your cervix have time to grow back and we can get the best samples.

Sample could not be processed

The laboratory was not able to process your sample. This could be for a number of reasons. It could be because your sample:

  • has expired - samples can't be read by a laboratory if they are more than 6 weeks old
  • vial has expired
  • vial has been damaged

You will need to have a repeat screening test in 3 months time. You need to wait 3 months so that the cells in your cervix have time to grow back and we can get the best samples.

Abnormal - results that are not normal

Your screening test may find abnormal cells in the cervix.

Abnormal cells are not cancer. But they can lead to cancer.

There are 2 different types of abnormal changes to cells in the cervix:

  • Low-grade - this means mild cell changes.
  • High-grade - this means moderate to severe cell changes.

Low-grade changes

Low-grade changes mean that the test has found some minor abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix.

Low-grade changes are common and most clear up on their own.

Having low-grade changes does not mean that you have cancer.

If low-grade changes are found, the laboratory will also test your sample for HPV.

If no HPV is found, the low-grade changes are not a cause for concern. You are at a very low risk of developing cervical cancer before your next screening test.

You will have your next screening test in 3 or 5 years, depending on your age. We will write to you to let you know when your next test is due.

If HPV is found, you will need to have an examination called a colposcopy. A colposcopy is a more detailed look at your cervix. It's free of charge. You will have it done in a hospital.

High-grade changes

High-grade changes mean that the test has found moderate to severe abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix. These changes are less likely to clear up on their own.

This does not mean you have cancer.

You will also need to have a colposcopy - a more detailed examination of the cervix.

Colposcopy

A colposcopy is a more detailed examination of the cervix. A special microscope called a colposcope looks at your cervix. It's a free and simple examination that is very much like having a screening test.

The colposcope doesn't go inside you. But a dye is used on your cervix. This is to more clearly identify any abnormal areas or cell changes. This helps determine whether you need treatment.

A small sample of tissue (biopsy) may also be taken from your cervix during colposcopy. This is sent to the lab to be looked at.

Sometimes you'll be offered treatment to remove abnormal cells at the same time as your colposcopy examination. You may also need to come back another day to get treatment.

A colposcopy usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes. If treatment is done at the same time, it may take a little longer.

You will have a colposcopy as a hospital out-patient. This means you don't have to stay overnight. It's also free of charge. Your GP or nurse will arrange the colposcopy for you.

Read about a colposcopy examination.