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Your cervical screening results

Your cervical screening results are usually sent to you in a letter. Sometimes you may be asked to call your GP to get the results.

When your cervical screening results should arrive

The nurse or doctor will tell you when you can expect your results letter.

If you've waited longer than you expected, call your GP surgery to see if they have any updates.


Try not to worry if it is taking a long time to get your results letter.

It does not mean anything is wrong, and most people will have a normal result.

What your cervical screening results mean

Your cervical screening results letter will explain if human papillomavirus (HPV) was found in your sample, what your result means, and what happens next.

Sometimes you'll be asked to come back in 3 months to have the test again. This does not mean there's anything wrong, it's because the results were unclear. This is sometimes called an inadequate result.

HPV is not found in your sample

Most people will not have HPV (an HPV negative result).

This means your risk of getting cervical cancer is very low. You do not need any further tests to check for abnormal cell changes in your cervix, even if you've had these in the past.

You'll be invited for screening again in 3 or 5 years.

HPV is found in your sample

Your results letter will explain what will happen next if HPV is found in your sample (an HPV positive result).

You may need:

  • another cervical screening test in 1 year
  • a different test to look at your cervix (a colposcopy)

There are 2 different kinds of HPV positive result.

Table of the 2 possible HPV positive results
Result What it means

HPV found (HPV positive), but no abnormal cell changes

You'll be invited for screening in 1 year and again 1 year later if you still have HPV. If you still have HPV after 2 years, you'll be asked to have a colposcopy.

HPV found (HPV positive) and abnormal cell changes

You'll be asked to have a colposcopy.


HPV is a common virus and most people will get it at some point. You can get it through any kind of sexual contact.


Having a positive HPV result does not mean your partner has had sex with someone else while you have been together.

You might have HPV even if you have not been sexually active or not had a new partner for many years.

If you need a colposcopy

A colposcopy is a simple procedure to look at your cervix.

It's similar to having cervical screening, but it's done in hospital.

You might need a colposcopy if your cervical screening results show abnormal changes to the cells of your cervix.

Find out more about having a colposcopy


Try not to worry if you have been referred for a colposcopy.

Any changes to your cells will not get worse while you're waiting for your appointment.

Page last reviewed: 14 June 2023
Next review due: 14 June 2026