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Your colposcopy results may show cell changes (abnormal cells) on your cervix. Your results letter usually calls these:

  • cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN)
  • cervical glandular intraepithelial neoplasia (CGIN).

Finding out you have cell changes may be worrying, especially if you haven’t heard of CIN or CGIN before. Try to remember that cell changes are not cervical cancer and having them does not mean you will develop cervical cancer. Most cell changes will get better by themselves or with treatment. 

On this page, we talk through the differences between CIN and CGIN, and try to explain some of the words you might read or hear. We hope it helps you feel more reassured, but if you need some extra support, our support services may be able to help.

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What are CIN and CGIN? 

It is important to know that CIN and CGIN are not cervical cancer. 

CIN and CGIN are named for the part of the cervix they affect:

  • CIN affects cells on the outer surface of the cervix. 
  • CGIN affects cells up inside the cervical canal. It is less common than CIN. 

The cervix showing the outer surface and cervical canal

The cervix showing the outer surface and cervical canal

Read more about the cervix > 

How is CIN graded?

CIN is graded from 1 to 3. The number shows how deep the cell changes go into the outer surface of the cervix. Sometimes, the terms low grade or high grade are also used. 

CIN1 (low grade) 

One-third of the thickness of the outer surface is affected.

It is unlikely these cell changes will develop into cervical cancer. They will probably go back to normal by themselves. You do not need treatment and will be invited for cervical screening (a smear test) in 12 months to check the cell changes are gone.

CIN2 (high grade)

Two-thirds of the thickness of the outer surface is affected.

There is a higher chance these cell changes may develop into cervical cancer. Depending on your situation, you may be offered:

  • treatment to remove the cell changes
  • an appointment (monitoring) every 6 months to check if the cell changes go back to normal by themselves.

You can discuss options and your preference with your colposcopist. 

CIN3 (high grade) 

The full thickness of the outer surface of the cervix is affected.

If not treated, it is more likely these cell changes will eventually develop into cervical cancer, so you will be offered treatment to stop that happening. 

Read more about monitoring and treating CIN >

How is CGIN graded?

CGIN is usually described as:

  • low grade
  • high grade.

If you have any grade of CGIN, you will be offered treatment. 

Read more about treating CGIN > 

Will CIN and CGIN develop into cervical cancer?

Most cell changes do not develop into cervical cancer. Once cell changes are found and graded, colposcopists can monitor or treat them as needed. 

If CIN is not monitored or treated, it may develop into squamous cell cervical cancer. This type of cervical cancer is named after the squamous cells on the outer surface of the cervix.

If CGIN is not treated, it may develop into adenocarcinoma. This type of cervical cancer affects the glandular cells up inside the cervical canal. 

If you are really worried or have specific questions, ask your colposcopist to talk you through your individual situation. They can give support and may be able to reassure you. 

How we can help

The most important thing to remember is that CIN and CGIN are not cervical cancer and that you will have a team of dedicated experts caring for you. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and want to chat with someone who gets it, our trained Helpline volunteers are just a phone call away. Call them on 0808 802 8000.

Check our Helpline opening hours > 

If a phone call isn’t for you, you can always join our Forum and connect with others going through similar experiences.

Join our Forum > 

If you have a medical question or want to understand more about cell changes, why not ask our experts? They will aim to answer your question within 2 weeks. 

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. 


  • Lili, E et al (2018). Low recurrence rate of high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia after successful excision and routine colposcopy during follow-up. Medicine.
  • Katki, HA (2014).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.
  • Tainio, K et al (2018). Clinical course of untreated cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 2 under active surveillance: systematic review and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal.
  • Matsumoto, K et al (2010). Predicting the progression of cervical precursor lesions by human papillomavirus genotyping: A prospective cohort study. International Journal of Cancer..
  • Kim, JW et al (2012). Factors Affecting the Clearance of High-Risk Human Papillomavirus Infection and the Progression of Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia. Journal of International Medical Research.

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

Read more about how we research and write our information >


If you have questions or concerns about cell changes (abnormal cells), get a confidential response from a medical professional.

Ask the Expert
Date last updated: 
12 Jun 2020
Date due for review: 
23 May 2022
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