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Cervical cancer health centre

Results of cervical screening

NHS ChoicesMedical Reference

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The results of your screening test will be sent to you in the post, with a copy sent to your GP.

Before you leave your screening, ask when your results are expected and how you will receive them. In some cases, you may need to contact your GP or clinic to get your results.

The Cervical Screening Programme aims to notify people of their results within 14 days.

The types of screening result you may get will depend on whether your screening sample has been checked for human papilloma virus (HPV) before any other test was carried out. If this happens with your sample, then you will have received a leaflet about 'HPV primary screening' with your screening invitation.

If the first test carried out on your sample is to look for abnormal cells ('cytology'), then the results you may get are as follows.

Normal

A normal test result means that no abnormal cell changes have been found. No action is needed and you do not need another cervical screening test until it is routinely due.

Inadequate

You may be told that you need to have a repeat test because the first one could not be read properly. This may be because not enough cells were collected, they could not be seen clearly enough or an infection was present.

If this the case, you will be asked to go back so that another sample of cells can be taken, usually after about three months.

Abnormal

If you have abnormal results, you may be told that you have:

  • borderline or low-grade changes (called 'dyskaryosis')
  • moderate or severe (high-grade) dyskaryosis

If your result is low-grade, it means that although there are some abnormal cell changes, they are very close to being normal and may disappear without treatment.

In this case, your sample will be tested for HPV. If HPV isn't found, you are at very low risk of developing cervical cancer before your next screening test. You will be invited back for routine screening in three to five years time (depending on your age). If HPV is found, you will be offered an examination called colposcopy, which looks at the cervix more closely.

If your result is high-grade dyskaryosis, your sample will not be tested for HPV, but you will be offered colposcopy in order to check the changes in your cervical cells.

All these results show that you have abnormal cell changes. This does not mean that you have cancer or will get cancer. It just means that some of your cells are abnormal and if they are not treated they may develop into cervical cancer.

HPV primary screening

If your sample is first tested for HPV (known as HPV primary screening), then what happens next will depend on if HPV is found or not.

HPV negative means that no HPV was found. In this case, no further tests need to be carried out on the sample, and you will simply be called back for screening again in three to five years time (depending on your age).

HPV positive means that the human papilloma virus has been found in your sample. In this case, the sample will then also be tested for abnormal cells. If no abnormal cells are found, then you will be asked to come back for screening again in 12 months time to see if the HPV has gone.

If abnormal cells are found along with an HPV positive result, you will be referred for colposcopy.

Colposcopy

A colposcopy is a simple examination that uses a special microscope called a colposcope to examine your cervix. Having colposcopy is very much like having cervical screening. The colposcope doesn't go inside you. It can identify the extent of abnormal cells and helps determine whether you need treatment.

A small sample of tissue ( biopsy) may also be taken from your cervix during colposcopy.

Read more about colposcopy.

Medical Review: September 28, 2013

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