Results - Cervical screening

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'll 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. Sometimes results may take longer. If your results haven't arrived within the time you were advised, you need to contact the GP practice where you were screened and ask them to follow up the results for you.

The types of screening result you may get depends on how your screening sample was tested.

The first test carried out on the cell sample is either:

If HPV primary screening is carried out first in your area, you'll receive a leaflet with your screening invitation containing more information.

Test results for abnormal cells

If the first test carried out on your sample is to look for abnormal cells (cytology), you should receive one of the following results.

Normal

A normal test result means no abnormal cell changes have been found. No action is needed and you don't need another cervical screening test until it's routinely due.

Inadequate

You may be told you need to have a repeat test because the first one couldn't be read properly.

This may be because:

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

You'll be asked to go back so another sample of cells can be taken, usually after about 3 months.

Abnormal

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

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

If your result is low-grade, it means that although there are some abnormal cell changes, they're 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're at very low risk of developing cervical cancer before your next screening test.

You'll be invited back for routine screening in 3 to 5 years (depending on your age).

If HPV is found, you'll be offered an examination called colposcopy, which looks at the cervix more closely.

If your result is high-grade dyskaryosis, your sample won't be tested for HPV, but you'll be offered colposcopy to check the changes in your cervical cells.

All these results show you have abnormal cell changes. This doesn't mean you have cancer or will get cancer.

It just means that some of your cells are abnormal, and if they're not treated they may develop into cervical cancer.

HPV primary screening test results

If your sample is first tested for HPV (HPV primary screening), what happens next depends on whether HPV is found.

HPV negative means no HPV was found. In this case, no further tests need to be carried out on the sample, and you'll simply be called back for screening again in 3 to 5 years (depending on your age).

HPV positive means HPV has been found in your sample. In this case, the sample will also be tested for abnormal cells.

If no abnormal cells are found, you'll be asked to come back for screening again in 12 months to see if the HPV has gone.

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

Colposcopy

A colposcopy is a simple examination that uses a special microscope called a colposcope to examine your cervix.

Having a colposcopy is similar to having cervical screening. The colposcope doesn't go inside you. It can identify the extent of abnormal cells and helps to determine whether you need treatment.

The person doing your colposcopy will apply some dyes to your cervix. These make it easier to see any abnormal cells by staining them a different colour.

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

Sometimes you'll be offered treatment to remove abnormal cells at the same time as your colposcopy examination. More extensive types of treatment may require a separate appointment.

Read more about colposcopy and the different types of treatment to remove abnormal cells in the cervix.

Page last reviewed: 06/08/2018
Next review due: 06/08/2021