Cervical Screening Glossary
Abnormal: A change in the appearance of epithelial cells (dysplasia) or the appearance of the nucleus (dyskaryosis)
Acute Hospitals: Where most colposcopy clinics are based.
Benign: A tumour that is not cancer. It does not spread to other parts of the body but sometimes it is removed anyway if it grows too big. Not malignant.
Biopsy: Procedure carried out to extract a sample of tissue so it can be examined.
Borderline: This means that cell changes have been found in the cells from the cervix but they will most likely go back to normal on their own.
Brush (LBC): Broom like device used to collect cells from the cervix when taking a Liquid Based Cytology sample.
Call/Recall: The process used to invite people for a screening test
Cervical cancer/carcinoma: Cancer of the neck (cervix) of the uterus. The tumour has spread into surrounding tissue and may involve adjacent organs (invasion). It may be detected in a precancerous stage of development by a cervical screening test.
Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CIN): Cellular changes in the cervix (neck of the womb) preceding the invasive stages of cervical cancer. The CIN grading system distinguishes three stages, CIN1, CIN2 and CIN3. The three grades of CIN relate to the thickness of the tissue covering the cervix that is affected. CIN 1 means one third of the thickness of the tissue covering the cervix has abnormal cells. CIN 3 means the full thickness of the tissue covering the cervix has abnormal cells. All these results mean that they are pre-cancerous.
Cervix: Neck of the Uterus (Womb)
Colposcopist: Doctor of gynaecological medicine specialising in the use of a colposcope and treatment.
Coverage: The percentage of eligible women in the target population who have had at least one adequate smear in the last five years.
Cytology/Cytopathology: The study of cells under a microscope.
Dyskaryosis : The appearance of abnormal cells whose nuclei show the features characteristic of the earliest stage of malignancy.
Mild Dyskaryosis Indicates mild or slight cell changes in the cervix
Moderate Dyskaryosis Indicates moderate cell changes in the cervix
Severe Dyskaryosis Indicates severe cell changes in the cervix
Eligible Women: Those women who are aged between 25-65, living in Northern Ireland who have a cervix
Fail Safe System: Procedures built into the computer system to ensure any woman with a not normal result is followed up.
Guidelines : Drawn up by the NHS Cancer Screening Programme to ensure all regions are providing the same standard of screening.
Human Papilloma Virus: There are over 70 different types of this virus and they cause different epithelial conditions e.g. HPV 1,2, + 4 cause hand and feet warts; HPV 6 + 11 cause genital warts and HPV 16 +18 cause CIN, indicated as major risk factor for developing cervical cancer.
Inadequate screening test : A cervical screening test which cannot be properly assessed microscopically due to poor quality or too few cells/materials This could result in a repeat test. (An inadequate test is also known as an ‘unsatisfactory’ test).
Invasive cancer: Cancer that has spread from its site of origin.
Liquid Based Cytology (LBC) : A technique for taking and preparing slides to be read. A brush is used to gather up the cells and instead of smearing the cervical cell sample over the slide, it is placed in a preservative liquid for transportation to a laboratory.
Metastasis: Malignant cells moving to another part of the body and growing another tumor.
Negative (Normal): A smear result where all cells viewed were normal – no changes in structure of cells or nucleus were observed.
Referral : The process whereby a patient is transferred from one professional to another, usually for specialist advice and/or treatment.
Repeat smear: Usually taken three-six months after a positive or abnormal result to check if cells have fixed themselves or are still not normal
Reporting time : Time taken between a smear being booked into the laboratory for assessment to the result letter being generated.
Screening : Examination of people with no symptoms, to detect an unsuspected disease.
Squamous (cell) epithelium: Epithelium is the tissue that covers the external surface of the body and lines hollow structures. Epithelial cells may be flat and scale-like (squamous), cuboidal or columnar.
Turnaround time: The time from a smear sample is taken, to a result is authorised by the reporting laboratory.