About the test results

Information for participants about Cervical Screening Test results and possible treatments if referred to a specialist.

Page last updated: 21 November 2017 (this page is generated automatically and reflects updates to other content within the website)

What do my test results mean?
What happens if I am referred to a specialist?
Treatment for abnormal cells

What do my test results mean?

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about your Cervical Screening Test results.

Possible results include:

Return to screen in five years

Your results show you do not have a HPV infection. The National Cervical Screening Program will send you a reminder to have your next Cervical Screening Test in five years.

Return to screen in 12 months

Your results show you do not need further investigation but you should have a repeat test in 12 months.

This is because you have a HPV infection. It is likely to be cleared by your body within the next 12 months.

The repeat test checks if the infection has gone and if so, you are safe to return to five yearly screening.

If the repeat test shows a HPV infection is still present, you may need further investigation from a specialist.

If you have a HPV infection, it does not mean you have cervical cancer. It takes about 10 to 15 years for cervical cancer to develop, and cervical cancer is a rare outcome.

Refer to a specialist

Your results show you have:

  • A type of HPV infection that requires further investigation, or,
  • Abnormal cells were found that require treatment
Your healthcare provider will refer you to a specialist for a follow-up test called a colposcopy test.

It is very important you follow the instructions of your healthcare provider if you received this test result.

This result does not mean you have cervical cancer. It takes about 10 to 15 years for cervical cancer to develop, and cervical cancer is a rare outcome.

Unsatisfactory test result

An unsatisfactory test result means the laboratory cannot read your sample. This means you will need to come back for a repeat test in six weeks.

This result might happen if the number of cells collected is too small. An unsatisfactory result does not mean there is something wrong.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions about your result.

What happens if I am referred to a specialist?

If your healthcare provider refers you to a specialist for a follow-up test, they will perform a colposcopy test. This is usually done by a gynaecologist.

A colposcopy is an examination of your cervix. During this examination, the specialist will use a device called a colposcope (which looks like a pair of binoculars on a stand) to get a magnified view of your cervix.

Your healthcare provider can help you decide who to see for a colposcopy, if you need one.

How is a colposcopy test done?

To have a colposcopy test, your specialist will ask you to lie on an examination bed with your legs supported, in a similar position to when you have a Cervical Screening Test. Like the Cervical Screening Test, the specialist will insert a speculum into your vagina. The specialist will then put a special liquid onto your cervix to highlight any abnormal cells.

The specialist will then look through the colposcope to carefully examine your cervix. The colposcope itself does not enter your body.

This examination usually takes 10 to 15 minutes and most people do not experience any pain. However, you may have some discomfort from having the speculum inside your vagina.

Ask your specialist to explain what it means if something is found during the examination. When you arrive for the appointment, it is fine to ask as many questions about the test as you like. Ask the specialist to explain what they are doing throughout the examination if that will help you.

What is a biopsy?

If areas of your cervix appear abnormal during a colposcopy test, the specialist may take a small sample of tissue to send to a laboratory for testing. This is a biopsy.

If you have a biopsy, you may have some pain for a short time. Avoid rigorous exercise for 24 hours after and it is best to avoid sexual intercourse for one to two days. You can shower, however avoid swimming, bathing and spas for one to two days.

These precautions reduce your risk of bleeding or infection. You may have some discharge and ‘spotting’ for a few hours afterwards, so it is a good idea to take a thin sanitary pad or panty liner to the appointment.

It may take up to two weeks for the results of your biopsy to come back to your healthcare provider. When the results are back, you should make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss the findings and talk about treatment, if needed.

Treatment for abnormal cells

If abnormal cells are found during your colposcopy, further treatment may be required.

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about what treatment options are most appropriate for your personal circumstances.

Treatment options may include:

Wire loop excision

During this procedure, the abnormal cells are removed from your cervix with a wire loop. The procedure takes 15 to 30 minutes. Most people have the procedure with a local anaesthetic, however some need a general anaesthetic. If a general anaesthetic is advised or preferred, a one-day hospital stay may be necessary.

Laser

Laser treatment removes the abnormal cells using heat from a laser beam. The procedure takes 15 to 30 minutes. Most people have the procedure with a local anaesthetic, however some need a general anaesthetic. If a general anaesthetic is advised or preferred, a one-day hospital stay may be necessary.

Cone biopsy

In this minor operation, a cone-shaped section of the cervix which contains the abnormal cells is removed. A general anaesthetic is normally needed and a day or overnight hospital stay for recovery may also be required.

After any form of treatment for abnormal cells you should not swim, use tampons or have vaginal intercourse for three to four weeks until the cervix has healed. Strenuous exercise should be avoided for seven to ten days as this increases the risk of bleeding and infection.

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