Cervical screening results

When will I get the results of my cervical screening?

Usually within 2 to 6 weeks.

What do the results mean?

The test looks for HPV (human papillomavirus). The results will tell you if you have HPV or not. If you have HPV, the results will also tell you whether there are any changes in the cells that could lead to cancer.

What happens next?

It depends on what they find as to what happens next. You might not need to do anything or you might need further tests.

You usually get your cervical screening results in the post. It can take from 2 to 6 weeks. If you have been waiting longer than you expected, call your GP surgery to find out if they have any updates about when you might hear. If there is a delay, try not to worry. It doesn't mean that there is anything wrong. Most people will have a normal result. 

There are several different results you can get after the cervical screening test. The wording in your letter might be slightly different depending on which part of the UK you live in.

England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are using HPV primary screening.

What do my cervical screening results mean?

HPV primary screening results 

HPV primary screening tests the sample of cells for high risk types of the HPV virus. High risk HPV can cause cell changes in the cervix, which over time can develop into cancer. Not all cell changes will develop into cancer but it's important to monitor any changes and give treatment if necessary. 

If you have a high risk type of HPV, the sample is then checked under a microscope for cell changes. If your result is HPV negative, your sample will not be tested for cell changes.

Your test results could include one of the following:

  • No HPV found - means you don't have high risk HPV. So you will be invited back for cervical screening in 3 or 5 years time depending on your age and where you live. 
  • HPV found with no cell changes - means you have high-risk HPV, but you do not have changes to your cervical cells. So you will be invited for cervical screening sooner to check that the HPV has gone. This is usually after a year.
  • HPV found with cell changes - means you have high risk HPV and cervical cell changes. These changes are also called dyskaryosis. You will be invited to go for a colposcopy and further tests.

If you have changes in your cells

Having changes in your cells doesn’t mean that you have cancer. The changed cells often go back to normal by themselves. But in some, these changes could develop into cancer in the future if not treated. 

It is very rare for an abnormal result to show that a cancer has already developed, especially if you have been having regular screening.

Problems with the result

You might be told that you need a repeat test because yours couldn't be read properly. This is sometimes called having an inadequate sample. This could be because the sample:

  • was taken but the cervix was not fully seen or visible

  • was taken incorrectly, for example, using a sampling device not approved by the NHS Cervical Screening Programme

  • did not contain enough cells

  • contained lubricant, inflammation, or blood

  • was incorrectly labelled

In all these cases, the letter will ask you to go back and have another test. This is usually about 3 months later.

Related links