Understanding Your Cervical Screening Test Results
If you have an abnormal cervical screening result, you need not worry too much. It does not certainly mean you have cervical cancer. Another screening test called colposcopy can be carried out to examine the abnormal cells in the cervix to obtain more details.
Your result also states that you have HPV. This is common among people who are affected by cervical cancer. The body’s immune system functions by getting rid of foreign substances that could be harmful to the body. If your test results depict HPV, there is a high probability that the abnormal cells won’t naturally improve. Colposcopy will have to be carried out to get more details.
On several occasions, cervical screening discovers other abnormal changes. Although this is rare, such abnormal changes are referred to as Cervical Glandular Intra-epithelial Neoplasia (CGIN).
The cervical screening results might take a while to be ready; if you find it stressful to wait for it, you may choose to share your worries with a close friend or relative.
You need to know that an abnormal test result does not ascertain cancer status. Instead, it discovers those who need immediate treatment to prevent the occurrence of cervical cancer.
LIKELY TEST RESULTS
Your cervical screening test may likely show one of the following:
- NORMAL CELLS – Your cervical sample revealed no change to the cervical cells. This is a negative result. Once your result shows normal cervical cells, you will be informed to return for your regular cervical screening again in 3 years (or even five years if you are over 50 years old).
- UNCLEAR RESULTS – This may mean that insufficient cells were present in the cervical sample. Your menstrual period and infection are likely to affect the result. You will have to repeat the cervical screening.
- ABNORMAL CELLS – Your sample reveals that some change occurred to the cells. You might be required to carry out some other tests depending on the type of change that occurred to the cells. Further tests will help in planning the most appropriate treatment.
ABNORMAL RESULT: MILD CHANGES TO THE CERVICAL CELLS
Most often, abnormal results of a cervical screening test reveal minor or slight changes only. This is regarded as borderline changes (low-grade dyskaryosis).
If your result is slightly abnormal, the next line of actions is dependent on the residential environment.
- If You Live around England, Wales or Northern Ireland
Your cervical sample will be tested for HPV (i.e. the human papillomavirus). The Human Papillomavirus is a common virus that is known to cause abnormal changes in the cervix, concurrently developing into cervical cancer.
HPV NEGATIVE: If your sample depicts HPV negative, there is a certainty that the changes will go back to the normal state. You will be expected to visit the clinic for your regular screening in 3 years (or five years if you are over 50 years of age).
HPV POSITIVE: If your cervical sample depicts the presence of HPV, there is a high probability that the abnormal cells will not improve. Your doctor will immediately arrange another test called colposcopy to view the cervix to get more details.
- If You Reside in Scotland
Slightly abnormal changes usually improve over time. You may be advised to undergo another cervical screening test a few months later to know if the cells have returned to their normal state. Your healthcare provider may also arrange another screening test called a colposcopy in order to view the cervix to get more details.
Your cervical sample will also be tested for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
- If you smoke
If you are a smoker, there is a high probability that this mild change to the cervical cells won’t go back to normal. If you decide to stop smoking, your healthcare provider can provide you with the best information on how to withdraw from smoking.
ABNORMAL RESULT: MODERATE TO SEVERE CHANGES TO THE CERVICAL CELLS
When your cervical screening test reveals very abnormal cell changes, it is regarded as high-grade dyskaryosis. If your cervical screening has this result, your healthcare provider will advise you to take a test called colposcopy to view the cervix.
HUMAN PAPILLOMA VIRUS- HPV
The human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are a group of common infections that cause abnormal changes in the cervix which could consequently develop into cervical cancer. HPV can be passed during sexual intercourse.
The HPV is now a common viral condition. On the norm, the body’s immune system gets it out of the body naturally. It is asymptomatic and rarely causes damage. Many people will never know they have it.
In some cases, the immune system does not get rid of the HPV infection, making the virus stay longer in the body. If the cervix gets affected by the Human Papilloma Virus, damage can be caused on the cervix leading to the development of abnormal cells.
If your cervical screening test reveals the presence of HPV or abnormal changes in the cervical cells, this doesn’t point out your sexual life. The human papillomavirus can be transmitted through any sexual contact. Condoms or other barrier contraception may significantly reduce the risk of contracting the HPV but does not offer total protection. The Human Papilloma Virus affects people who:
- have had multiple sexual partners
- have had sex with men or with women
- are in a long-term relationship with one person.
If you are sexually active or in a sexual relationship with someone, your partner might have already been affected. This is no cause for alarm as they do not get harmed. There is no need to get tested or treated for it.
If you are worried or have questions about the HPV, ask your healthcare provider, or you can talk to one of our cancer support specialists.
We have more information about HPV.
OTHER ABNORMAL RESULTS
The cervical screening test can sometimes find changes in a certain type of cell that lines the cervical canal. This can be cervical glandular intraepithelial neoplasia (CGIN). If not treated, CGIN may develop into adenocarcinoma, which is a less common type of cervical cancer.
If you manifest some signs of CGIN, your doctor may arrange for you to undergo a test called the colposcopy to view the cervix for more details. Your doctor might also arrange for you to be reviewed by a gynaecologist.
· Cervical cancer
On a rare occasion, cervical screening detects changes that may be signs of very early cervical cancer. You will have to undergo a screening test called the colposcopy to view the cervix more closely. If cancerous cells are found, you will need to see a gynaecologist for advice about treatment options.
We have more information about treating cervical cancer.
EFFECTS ON YOUR EMOTIONS
It is natural to worry about the outcome of the screening while waiting for the results. Many say waiting is difficult.
It can be emotionally stressful to have an abnormal test result. Many find the uncertainty of the resulting outcome difficult to deal with. And it can become frustrating to find out that you need more specific tests or treatments which you will have to wait for the results again.
It is important to know that most of the people who have abnormal test results will not eventually develop cervical cancer. The major aim of cervical screening is to identify the small number of people who need immediate treatment to prevent cancer. Research has shown that screening tests in the UK have been effective at identifying such people.
If you are struggling to deal with worries about your cervical screening, it will help greatly to talk about it. You should talk to a close friend or a family member about it. Your doctor or registered nurses are capable of answering any questions you might have and also explain how they can support you. Some organisations provide information and support about this, such as Women’s Health Care Partners. You can look through our official website for more information www.womenshealthcarepartners.org or walk into our office at Harley Street, London to speak with a Gynaecologist.