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Cell changes (abnormal cells)

After cervical screening (a smear test), you may have an abnormal result. If this happens you will be invited to colposcopy, an examination that takes a closer look at your cervix. 

Read more about colposcopy > 

Your colposcopy results may show you have changes in the cells on your cervix. The main thing to remember is these cell changes (abnormal cells) are not cervical cancer, but may need monitoring or treatment. Many of these cell changes will get better, either by themselves or after treatment. 

In this section, we talk through what cell changes are, how they may be treated, and what happens if they come back. We also explain some of the medical terms you might read or hear, to try and help you understand what’s happening and feel more in control. 

CIN and CGIN >

You may see the terms CIN and CGIN used on your results letter. Learn what they are and how they are managed.

Treating cell changes (abnormal cells) >

Read about the different treatments you may be offered for cell changes, including large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ). 

After treatment for cell changes (abnormal cells) >

Find out what side effects to expect after treatment and what happens at your follow-up appointment.

If cell changes (abnormal cells) come back >

Find out why cell changes sometimes come back and where to get support. 

Cell changes (abnormal cells) FAQs >

Let us answer your common questions about cell changes.

Show references

  1. Lili E. et al, Low recurrence rate of high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia after successful excision and routine colposcopy during follow-up, Medicine, 2018.
  2. Katki HA. et al, Five-year risk of recurrence following treatment of CIN2, CIN3, or AIS: performance of HPV and Pap cotesting in post-treatment management, Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease, 2014.
  3. Tainio K. et al, Clinical course of untreated cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 2 under active surveillance: systematic review and meta-analysis, BMJ, 2018.
  4. NHS Inform, Colposcopy - Tests & treatments www.nhsinform.scot/tests-and-treatments/non-surgical-procedures/colposcopy Accessed: June 2019.



Date last updated: 
24 May 2019
Date due for review: 
23 May 2022

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