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Abnormal Smear & Colposcopy

Many women each year in the UK will get an abnormal smear result. An abnormal or positive smear result does not mean you have cancer. It does mean that you have some changes in your cervical cells that could eventually develop into cancer and these will need to be investigated.

Who should have a smear test?

Most women 25 years or older should have regular smear tests (Pap tests). Most women over 65 no longer need smear tests, with some exceptions. We are more than happy to discuss your individual screening needs.

An Abnormal Smear

The cervical smear test is designed to pick up minor changes before any serious problems develop. One in twenty smears are not normal and therefore, it is not unusual to have an abnormal result. It is extremely rare for any abnormality to be cancer.

What happens if I have an abnormal smear?

Nearly all abnormal smears show no more than minor changes in cells on the cervix (the neck of the womb). These changes act as an early warning sign that over time, cervical cancer may develop if the minor changes are not managed appropriately. It is extremely rare for a woman to develop cancer if they have regular smears and colposcopy when appropriate.

In some cases a smear will be repeated and in other cases you will be referred for an investigation called a colposcopy.

What does the result mean?

An abnormal smear result usually means that minor changes exist in the cells on the cervix. These are called low grade, dyskaryosis or dyskaryotic cells. In many cases these minor changes return to normal on their own.For some women their result will show moderate or severe dyskaryosis (high grade). These types of changes are less likely to return to normal by themselves and usually need treatment. To decide whether you need treatment, a further examination, colposcopy, is carried out to investigate the cervix in more detail.Treatment is simple and 95 per cent effective.

What is a colposcopy?

Colposcopy is an examination of the cervix (the neck of the womb) using a specially designed microscope (colposcope). The main reason for performing colposcopy is to detect pre-cancerous changes of the cervix although other conditions can also be diagnosed during a colposcopic examination.

After your colposcopy, you may require smears more frequently than you had them before. It’s important that follow up smear tests are carried out at regular appointments that Richard will recommend.