In the current cervical screening the sample of cells that is collected from the cervix is first examined under a microscope (cytology) to look for any abnormalities. If you live in England or Northern Ireland and this cytology shows borderline or low grade squamous dyskaryosis, your sample may then be tested for a high-risk HPV infection. If an infection is found (high-risk HPV positive) then you will be sent to colposcopy. If not (high-risk HPV negative) you will be returned to the normal screening program.
With HPV primary screening the cervical screening sample is tested for the presences of high-risk HPV first. If the sample is high-risk HPV positive (high-risk HPV infection has been found) then cytology will be used to check for cervical abnormalities. If abnormalities are seen you will be sent to colposcopy for further examination. If you are HPV positive but no cervical abnormalities are found in cytology then you will be rescreened again in 12 months time. If you are high-risk HPV negative (no infection found) then you will be returned to the normal screening programme, because without the presence of high-risk HPV there is virtually no chance of going on to develop cervical cancer.