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Abnormal Smear - Why It Happens and What to Do Next

An abnormal smear test result is something that happens to approximately 1 to 2 percent of the UK population aged between 25 and 35; for those in the 40+ age range it is 0.5 to 1 percent.

An abnormal smear is any result which has been graded as mildly, moderately or severely abnormal. However, mildly abnormal smears are rarely cause to worry as very often the cells revert to normal on their own and without treatment. In the case of a mildly abnormal smear the most likely treatment is that you will be asked to return for another smear in 3 to 6 months time. If the cells that appeared mildly abnormal are still present then you make require further investigations.

However, it's important that moderately and severely abnormal results receive treatment as around 30 to 60 percent of have the potential of becoming cancerous over a 10 year period.

If you receive an abnormal smear result it is important to go for follow up treatment. Ignoring the result will not make it go away and unfortunately the longer you avoid treatment the greater the potential risk to your health.

What Happens Next?

If your smear has shown cervical changes requiring treatment then you will be referred to hospital where you will be seen by either a gynaecologist, pathologist or doctor who specialises in genito-urinary medicine. Whoever you see will have received specialised training in both diagnosing and treating cervical abnormalities.

You will have a colposcopy which is similar to a cervical smear. The doctor will insert a speculum into your vagina and then use a colposcope, which is a special type of microscope, to look carefully at your cervix. The colposcope does not enter your vagina. instead it will be facing towards your cervix and the doctor will see your magnified cervix through it. This allows the doctor to see any areas of abnormality that may be responsible for your abnormal cervical smear result.

If the doctor sees any abnormalities he will take a small biopsy of the affected area which means the pathologist who analysed your initial smear will be able to see where the abnormal cells were. The doctor performing the colposcopy can then treat the cervix as required.

In most cases treatment will not require an anaesthetic or only a local anaesthetic. However, if the doctor is unable to clearly see the affected area it may be necessary to have a general anaesthetic It normally takes no more than half an hour to complete the treatment and afterwards you will be advised not to have sex for at least 10 days.

Read more Cervical Smear Articles


For further information about HPV visit NHS Cancer Screening Programme.

Further information about Colposcopy and invasive illness is available from the British Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology.