What do the screening results mean?

Before you leave your appointment, 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.

Your test will have one of three possible outcomes:

Normal

A normal test result means that no abnormal cell changes have been found.   More than 90 out of every 100 women screened get a normal result.  You will be invited for screening again in three or five years depending on your age.

Inadequate

An inadequate result does not mean your smear was abnormal but that it was unreadable. This means that there were not enough cells in the sample and happens in about 3 out of every 100 tests taken.  You will be asked to go back for a repeat test in about three months’ time.

Abnormal

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

  • Low grade (borderline or mild) changes  
  • High grade (moderate or severe) changes

This means that changes have been found in your cells.  This happens in about 7 in every 100 women screened.  What happens next will depend on whether your changes are low grade or high grade. Samples reported as low grade will also be tested for the presence of the high risk types of HPV.

Low grade (borderline or mild) changes and high risk HPV negative

This is not cancer, and in most cases does not lead to cancer.  As high risk HPV is not present, the risk of cancer is extremely low and no further follow up is needed at this time.  You will be invited for screening again in three or five  years’, dependent on your age.

Low grade (borderline or mild) changes and high risk HPV positive

This is not cancer, and in most cases does not lead to cancer.  However, as high risk HPV is present you will be referred for a more detailed examination of the cervix, called a colposcopy. (link to colposcopy page)  You will receive a letter from the hospital with details of your appointment.

High grade (moderate or severe) changes

This is still unlikely to be cancer.  To decide whether or not you need treatment you will be referred for a colposcopy examination. (Link to page detailing what happens at the Colposcopy – based on the leaflet) You will receive a letter from the hospital with details of your appointment.