Your test results letter will show 1 of 4 possible results:
- no changes to your cells
- not enough cells to test
- minor changes to your cells
- changes which require further investigation
No changes to your cells
In 9 out of 10 cases, there will be 'no changes' and you’ll be invited to have another smear test in 3 or 5 years as usual.
Not enough cells to test
Sometimes there aren't enough cells in the sample to examine. This isn't unusual and you’ll be invited to repeat the test in 3 months’.
Minor changes sometimes clear up on their own and don't need any treatment.
These changes will be monitored to check that they've cleared up.
You’ll be invited to have another smear test in a few months’ time.
Changes which require further investigation
For the 1 in 10 women who have changes, treatment will usually be for changes to the cells before they turn into cancer. Any treatment you may need is usually simple and you can almost certainly be treated as an outpatient.
If changes are detected which need further investigation you’ll be referred to a colposcopy clinic for examination to check whether the changes need to be monitored or treated.
A colposcopy is an examination of the cervix using a special microscope called a colposcope. The colposcope magnifies your cervix so that the specialist can see where the changes are and what they look like.
To do the test, the specialist will:
- gently insert a speculum into your vagina
- look at your cervix through the colposcope – it does not go inside you
Before the test, the specialist will explain what to expect and, if necessary, offer a local anaesthetic as it can feel a little uncomfortable.
More about how a colposcopy is performed
Sometimes treatment isn’t necessary. If this is the case the specialist will explain why and will arrange for you to have smear tests more often.
In some cases you’ll be asked to come back to the clinic for further colposcopy examinations. Your follow-up appointment will be with your specialist, nurse or GP.