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Follow up after treatment for cervical cell changes

 

 

After treatment for cervical cell changes (abnormal cells), your follow up appointment will check that the treatment has worked.

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Your follow up appointments

You will be invited back for a follow up test about 6 months after treatment for cell changes. This is usually done at:

  • your GP surgery
  • the hospital where you had treatment. 

Your invitation letter will tell you where to go.

The follow up test is like cervical screening and is called a test of cure. The exact follow up you have will be different depending on the type of cell changes you have.

Most of the time, treatment for cell changes is successful and you won’t have any further problems. Going to these follow up appointments is important to confirm this and make sure you get any other care you need.

The sample taken at your 6 month follow up will be checked for HPV :

If you don’t have HPV

If you don’t have HPV, you will be invited back for cervical screening in 3 years, whatever your age. 

If you have HPV

If you have HPV, you will be referred to colposcopy. Your sample will also be checked for cell changes, to help the colposcopist with any plans for further treatment or monitoring.

The sample taken at your 6 month follow up will be checked for HPV and cell changes:

If you don’t have HPV and no cell changes

If you don’t have HPV and no cell changes, you will be invited for cervical screening in 3 years time, whatever your age. 

If you have HPV

If you have either HPV or cell changes (or both), you will be referred to colposcopy.  

The sample taken at your 6 month follow up will be checked for cell changes:

If you don’t have cell changes

If you don’t have cell changes, you will be invited for cervical screening in 3 years time, whatever your age. 

If you have low-grade or mild cell changes

If your result suggests you have low-grade or mild cell changes, the same sample will be checked for HPV:

  • If you don’t have HPV, you will be invited back for cervical screening in 3 years time, whatever your age.
  • If you have HPV, you will be referred to colposcopy for further tests.

If you have high-grade or severe cell changes

If your result suggests you have high-grade cell changes, you will be referred to colposcopy for further tests. 

You will have follow up appointments about 6 and 18 months after treatment. The samples taken at these appointments will be checked for HPV:

If you don’t have HPV

If you don’t have HPV at either appointment, you will be invited back for cervical screening in 3 years. This will happen whatever your age.

If you do have HPV

If you have HPV at either appointment, your sample will be checked for cell changes:

  • If you don’t have cell changes at the 6 month appointment, you will be invited for another test of cure in 1 year. If you don’t have HPV at this test, you will be invited back for cervical screening in 3 years, whatever your age.
  • If you have HPV and cell changes at either appointment, you may have further tests and may be offered more treatment. 

You will have follow up appointments about 6 and 12 months after treatment. The samples taken at these appointments will be checked for cell changes.  This is usually at your colposcopy clinic:

If you don’t have cell changes

If you don’t have cell changes, you will be invited back for cervical screening every year for 5 years. This will happen whatever your age.

If you have cell changes:

If you have cell changes at any of your follow up tests, you will be referred to colposcopy. You may have further tests and may be offered more treatment. 

If CGIN or SMILE wasn’t completely removed

Sometimes the tissue taken during treatment won’t have clear margins. Having clear margins this means there is an edge around the cell changes that are ‘clear’ – there are no cell changes there. 

If you don’t have clear margins, you will be offered further treatment.

If you don’t want further treatment, or it isn’t possible, you will have a follow up appointment after about 6 months. Your sample will be checked for HPV:

  • If you don’t have HPV, you will have another follow up appointment in 6 months. If you still don’t have HPV, you will have follow up appointments every year for 9 years.
  • If you have HPV at any point during your follow up appointments, you may have further tests or be offered more treatment.  

If cell changes come back

Most treatment for cell changes is successful but, for a few people, cell changes may come back in the future. Going for follow up appointments when invited helps find any cell changes early, so they can be monitored or treated as needed.  

Read about cell changes coming back >  

Follow up for cell changes FAQs

The colposcopy department at the hospital where you had treatment is responsible for telling the invitation system that you need a follow up appointment. You should get a letter in the post automatically. If you haven’t had one, call the hospital.

Your colposcopy team won’t stop inviting you for follow up appointments until they are happy you have had all of the tests that the guidance suggests. 

If you are worried about what will happen, it is best to speak with your colposcopy team. They can explain the thinking behind your treatment or care plan, and why they have recommended you continue with or stop follow up appointments. 

The length of time between appointments are based on your results. These pathways have been put in place based on it being safe for you. If you are worried or want to understand more about your personal situation, your colposcopy team are there to talk it through with you.

How we can help

We know that waiting and going for follow up appointments may make you feel anxious, especially when you’re trying to understand how often you should be invited and the reasons behind that. Talking to your colposcopy team is key to getting that understanding and starting to feel reassured.

If you aren’t sure how to start that conversation, you can give our free Helpline a call on 0808 802 8000. Our trained volunteers can talk through the different pathways or simply listen to how you’re feeling.

Check the opening hours >

Sometimes connecting with others who have gone through a similar experience can be helpful. Our online Forum lets our community give and get support. You can read through the messages or post your own – whichever feels most comfortable.

Join our Forum >

If you have general questions about follow up after treatment for cell changes, our panel of medical experts may be able to help. They can’t give you answers about your individual situation or health – it’s best to speak with your colposcopy team for that.

Use our Ask the Expert service >

Thank you to all the experts who checked the accuracy of this information, and the volunteers who shared their personal experience to help us develop it. 

References

  • Public Health England (2021). 4. Colposcopic diagnosis, treatment and follow up. Cervical screening: programme and colposcopy management. Web: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cervical-screening-programme-and-colposcopy-management/3-colposcopic-diagnosis-treatment-and-follow-up. Accessed November 2021.
  • Ibid.

We write our information based on literature searches and expert review. For more information about all the references we used, please contact [email protected]

Read more about how we research and write our information >

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"I underwent treatment for severe abnormalities of the cervix...the fear I felt lead to a passion to raise awareness and funds for Jo's"
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Date last updated: 
14 Jan 2022
Date due for review: 
14 Jan 2025
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