What do the smear test results mean?
After the smear test, you should receive your results in the post within about two weeks. A copy of your results will also be sent to your GP.
Your screening results will vary depending on the type of sample that was tested. The first test that gets carried out on a smear cell sample either be:
Test 1: for abnormal cells (cytology)
Test 2: for HPV (the human papilloma virus)
Test 1: If it was the test for abnormal cells, your results will be either ‘Normal’, ‘Inadequate, or ‘Abnormal’.
‘Normal’ means that no abnormal cell changes have been found, and you won’t need to do anything until your next regular smear test is due.
‘Inadequate’ means that your first test hasn’t worked properly, either because there weren’t enough cells collected, it was too difficult to see the cells, or you had an infection. If you had this result, you will need to go back for another test after 3 months.
‘Abnormal’ means that you may have some abnormal cell changes (called dyskaryosis) present, or they suspect that you might have HPV. Your abnormal results will be split into:
- borderline / low-grade changes
- moderate / severe (high-grade) changes
If the changes are low-grade, it means that the abnormal cell changes are close to being normal and could go away on their own accord. Your sample will also be sent for HPV testing. If HPV is found, you will be offered a colposcopy exam, which will take a closer look at your cervix. If there is no HPV present, you have a very low risk of developing cervical cancer before your next routine screening, and you won’t need to do anything else.
If the changes are high-grade, you will be offered a colposcopy exam to check the changes in your cervical cells more closely. You won’t be offered a test for HPV on top of this. A colposcopy exam is very much like a smear test, but is when a small sample of tissue (biopsy) from your cervix is taken. This sample is then examined under a special microscope (called a colposcope) to decide whether or not you will need treatment.
Test 2: If your sample has been tested for HPV, your results will be either ‘HPV negative’ or ‘HPV positive’.
- HPV negative means that HPV was not found. You won’t need do anything else until your next regular smear test is due.
- HPV positive means that HPV was found in your cell sample. There are several different types of HPV, and not all of these are dangerous or develop into cervical cancer. However, if your results are positive for HPV, your sample will also be tested for abnormal cells. If abnormal cells are found, you will also be referred for a colposcopy. If not, you will be asked back 12 months later for another screening to see whether the HPV has gone or not.