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Cervical Screening Test results - what do they mean?

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about your Cervical Screening Test results. For more information, see the Guide to Understanding your Cervical Screening Test Results booklet.

Possible results include:

Unsatisfactory test result

An unsatisfactory test result does not mean there is something wrong; it is important to repeat the test in six weeks. An unsatisfactory test result happens when your sample cannot be read properly by the laboratory. There are many reasons why this happens; for example, the number of cells collected was too small.

Return to screen in five years

A low risk result means that no human papillomavirus (HPV) was detected. The chances of cervical cells changing and needing treatment in the next five years is very low. The National Cervical Screening Program will invite you to have your next Cervical Screening Test in five years.

Return to screen in 12 months

An intermediate risk result means that HPV has been detected but NOT types 16 or 18 (the cause of 70 per cent of cervical cancers). This means you should have a repeat test in 12 months. Further testing of your Cervical Screening Test sample might show:

  • no abnormal cervical cells
  • possible low-grade abnormal cervical cells
  • low-grade abnormal cervical cells.

It is safe to wait for 12 months for a repeat test as the changes and/or infection are usually cleared by your body. The repeat test will check if the infection has gone and if so, you are safe to return to five yearly screening. Remember, if you have a HPV infection, it does not mean you have cervical cancer. The National Cervical Screening Program will contact you and let you know when you are due for your next test.

Refer to a specialist

A Refer to specialist result means that HPV has been detected in one of the following below situations.

Please note: It is very important you follow the instructions of your healthcare provider if you received this test result. High grade abnormalities can usually be treated easily and successfully if detected early. If untreated, there is a greater chance of developing cervical cancer.

HPV detected – not type 16 and/or 18

Further testing of your sample may have shown:

  • possible high-grade abnormal cervical cells
  • high-grade abnormal cervical cells
  • glandular abnormalities.

This may mean there are significant changes in the cells of your cervix and this might need treatment. High grade abnormalities can usually be treated easily and successfully if detected early. If untreated there is a greater chance of developing cervical cancer. You will be referred to a specialist for a colposcopy.

HPV detected – type 16 and/or 18

Your results show you have a HPV infection, type 16 and/or 18. These HPV types are connected to 70 per cent of all cervical cancers. It is important that you have further followup tests because you may be at higher risk of cervical cancer. Your healthcare provider will refer you to a specialist for a colposcopy.

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