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You should get your cervical screening (smear test) results by post within 4 weeks after your test. Most results will be clear.
We also have information on:
Waiting for your cervical screening results may make you feel anxious. We are here if you need some support while waiting for your results or when you get them.
England, Scotland and Wales use a test called HPV primary screening during cervical screening. Northern Ireland currently uses a test called cytology, but will use HPV primary screening in future.
The results you get will depend on how your sample is tested.
Depending on your result and where you live, you may be asked to:
You don’t have high-risk HPV.
If you live in England or Wales, you will be invited for cervical screening in:
If you live in Scotland, you will be invited for cervical screening in 5 years, whatever your age.
You have high-risk HPV, but you do not have changes to your cervical cells.
You will be invited for cervical screening in 1 year, to check the HPV is gone. If you get this result 3 times in a row, you will be invited to colposcopy for more tests
You have high-risk HPV and cervical cell changes.
You will be invited to colposcopy for further tests.
You sometimes get this result if the sample could not be tested properly, does not have enough cells or if the cells cannot be seen properly under a microscope.
Repeat cervical screening after 3 months.
Cytology is currently used in Northern Ireland.
You do not have cervical cell changes.
You will be invited for cervical screening in 3 or 5 years.
You have cervical cell changes. Your results letter will tell you if the changes are borderline, low grade or high grade.
You will only be invited for colposcopy if you have high grade cell changes or low grade cell changes and HPV.
The sample of cells could not be looked at for changes. This sometimes happens if the sample does not have enough cells or if the cells cannot be seen properly.
Repeat cervical screening after 3 months.
You should get your cervical screening results within 4 weeks after your test, but your results may be delayed – this may be because your lab is processing a lot of cervical screening tests, or they have been asked to process coronavirus tests. At your appointment, you can ask your nurse how long it will take to get your results and how you will get them.
Getting your results early or later does not affect what the result is, but we know it can be worrying. If you are concerned, speak with your GP or call our Helpline on 0808 802 8000
You should always get your cervical screening results letter in the post. If you don’t get a letter within the timeframe your GP surgery gave you, you may want to ring them.
If your sample needed further investigation or you need more tests, the hospital may contact you with your results.
HPV primary screening and cytology are reliable ways of testing the sample of cells taken during cervical screening:
No screening test is perfect, so with both tests there is a chance of getting an inaccurate result.
No, cell changes are not cervical cancer. We know that about 1 in 20 people get a cervical screening result of cell changes. Cell changes happen when our cells start behaving in a way they should not, but many go back to normal without treatment. Sometimes treatment is needed to make sure cell changes don’t develop into cervical cancer.
It is very rare for cervical cancer to be diagnosed from cervical screening. Only about 1 in 2,000 (less than 1%) people with an abnormal cervical screening result will have cervical cancer.
Dyskaryosis is another word for cell changes. Your results letter may also say if the cell changes are borderline, low grade or high grade, and it will tell you the next steps.
No. Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust is a charity independent of the national cervical screening programme, GP surgeries and other clinics and cannot access your cervical screening results. It is best to contact your local GP or the clinic where you had your test to find out about your results.
It is your choice whether to go for cervical screening. The NHS invites you for cervical screening from age 25 to 64 because research has shown that screening to this age is the best way to make sure your risk of developing cervical cancer as you get older is low.
If you have questions about cervical screening or need support with the test, we have information about cervical screening that may help.
You may also want to call our free Helpline on 0808 802 8000 – check the Helpline opening hours >
No. It is important to remember that cervical screening is a screening test only. It gives a snapshot of cervical cells to identify whether there may be changes caused by high-risk HPV early.
If you have an abnormal result, you may be invited to colposcopy, so an expert can take a closer look at your cervix and diagnose any cell changes. If these changes are not monitored or treated, they may develop into cervical cancer at some point in the future. This is why cervical screening is the best way to prevent cervical cancer, along with having the HPV vaccine.
Lots of people you feel anxious after getting an abnormal result, so you are not alone if you feel this way. But it is important that you understand what any cell changes are, so you can talk with your doctor about the results and get the right care and support.
The best person to speak to about your cervical screening results is your GP, as they know your full medical history.
If you have general questions about your cervical screening results or are confused about the next steps, we can help:
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.
We write our information based on literature searches and expert review. For more information about the references we used, please contact [email protected]