Abnormal cervical screening result
Cervical screening identifies women with pre-cancer of the cervix. This is called CIN (Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia). One in 20 women will have an abnormal cervical screening test result.
Your smear sample can be tested in two ways;
Firstly, it can check whether you have high risk strains of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). There are many harmless strains of this virus but some have been identified as causing pre-cancer and cancer of the cervix. If you have been sexually active then you have an 80% chance of acquiring HPV at some point.
Secondly, the cells removed at your smear test can be analysed to detect any abnormalities (called dyskaryosis). If abnormal cells are identified, they will be graded according to the extent of abnormality; mild dyskaryosis being the least abnormal and severe dyskaryosis the most abnormal. It is important to remember that these changes describe pre-cancer and not cancer.
If you have an abnormal smear result, you will often require further assessment of the cervix. This examination is called a colposcpy (link to colposcopy patient information). Mild dyskaryosis or a borderline result rarely require treatment. These minor changes can disappear over time but the process of regression can take up to 2 years. Your specialist will want to keep you under surveillance to ensure the minor changes do not persist and become more abnormal.
If you have high grade changes in the cells of the cervix (moderate or severe dyskaryosis) then treatment to remove the cells is usually indicated. This treatment is called a LOOP EXCISION OF CERVIX and is normally done at the same time as the colposcopy examination. Your specialist will want to repeat a smear test after the treatment to ensure that all the abnormal cells are treated.
Sometimes, smear samples are 'inadequate', meaning there are insufficient cells to read and report on. If you have persistent inadequate results then you should see a specialist for a colposcopy examination.