Smear Test Results
You will normally known within six weeks the results of your smear test. Results are classed as either Normal or Abnormal. If not enough cells were collected for analysis then you will be asked to make an appointment for a re-test.
If your test is found to be abnormal it doesn't necessarily mean you have cancerous cells or that you are likely to get cancer. It just means that some changes have been detected and further investigation is necessary. Very often the abnormalities are minor and would disappear if left untreated. However, in some cases the cells could become cancerous which is why they need to be investigated further.
Abnormal cells are classed borderline normal, mildly abnormal, severely abnormal or invasive cancer. Depending on your smear test results and the abnormality found you may be asked to attend for a further smear in 6 - 12 months or referred for a colposcopy, a test of the cervix.
Definitions of Smear Test Results
About 10% of women who have had a cervical smear test will be recalled for a repeat test. Reasons for recalls vay between an inadequate collection of cells to cell abnormalities. However around 90% cervical smear tests return a normal result.
If you have an abnormal test result you will be told what sort of changes were detected.
1 in 20 test results will return with borderline changes or mild changes, known as CIN1. In many cases you will be advised to return for a further smear test in around 6-12 months and very often the cells will have returned to normal without the need for treatment within that time.
1 in 100 test results will return with moderate cell changes, known as CIN2. You will probably be offered a colposcopy.
1 in 200 test results will return with severe cell changes, known as CIN3. Again, it is most likely you will be offered a colposcopy.
Less than 1 in 1000 will return a result showing invasive cancer. If you receive this result you will be referred to a specialist for immediate treatment.
Abnormalities found during Smear Tests
Several terms are commonly used to describe precancerous, or pre-invasive, abnormalities.
The system used most frequently is known as cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN).
CIN is divided into grades. Grade 1 (mild), Grade 2 (moderate) and Grade 3 (severe). These grades are related to the risk of any cervical cell changes developing into cancer.
Several studies have illustrated that of the women who have CIN3 and don't receive adequate treatment, 36% will develop an invasive tumour 20 years later. Although women with CIN1 have 47 times the normal risk of developing cervical cancer, 50 per cent of the time the cells will revert back to normal if left untreated.
Problems associated with Cervical Smear Testing
Although cervical screening can prevent around 75% of cancer cases in women who attend for regular screening, it doesn't mean the test is fool-proof. It can be difficult to determine which cells are abnormal particularly in the early stages when pre-cancerous changes may be taking place. False negatives are sometimes reported, ie some tests which appear normal later prove to have been abnormal. falso negatives cn occur in 2-20% of all tests depending on how the results were collected and analysed.
Conversely, sometimes a false positive is reported when in fact the result is normal. This can lead to unnecessary treatment for women. Fortunately newer and more reliable tests are currently in development which should mean fewer problems reading results in the future.
Sadly, although almost 80% of eligible women in the UK attend screening programmes, those most at risk of contracting cervical cancer often fail to be tested. Around half of all new cases of cervical cancer in the UK occurs in women who have never had a smear test. Therefore, it is vital that you attend for screening whenever it is offered to you.
Related Smear Test 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.
Treat Yourself to Me Time!
Or, if you're currently struggling with a busy lifestyle and the added demands of parenting, try our Perfect Relaxation for Parents mp3 - take time out for yourself and awaken refreshed and ready to face whatever life throws at you!
Also by BreastfeedingMums
Books We Love!
Write for Us
If you would like to contribute a pregnancy or breastfeeding poem, story or photos, or a miscarriage poem or story, just contact us and we'll add it to the site. Thanks.