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HealthInfo Canterbury

Understanding your cervical smear results

Te mārama ki ō hua whakamātautau waha kōpū

A diagram showing the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix and vaginaA smear test, also called a cervical smear test, checks the health of your cervix. Your cervix is the neck of the womb.

A smear test picks up any early changes to the cells in your cervix to prevent cervical cancer. All women between 25 and 69 who have ever been sexually active are offered smear tests.

The tests are done every three years if your smear results stay normal, or more often if a test shows there are some changes.

Normal and abnormal results

A normal result will say: Negative for intraepithelial lesion or malignancy.

An abnormal result could say any one of these three options:

Terms used

ASC-US: This is very slightly abnormal. This means there are very minor changes to the cells on the surface of your cervix.

LSIL: This means there are minor changes to the cells on your cervix.

HSIL: This means there are more serious changes to your cervix that could develop into cervical cancer if not treated.

Next steps

If you have ASC-US or LSIL and are over 30, the lab will do a test for human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that will usually clear up on its own. But it can sometimes cause cancer of the cervix.

If HPV is found, you'll be referred for a colposcopy at the hospital. This is a more detailed examination of your cervix.

If HPV isn't found or if you're under 30, you'll just need another smear test in 12 months. If the atypical cells are still there then, you'll be referred to a specialist for further investigation.

If you have HSIL, you'll be referred for a colposcopy. You may also need a biopsy (a sample of tissue) taken from your cervix to decide which treatment you need.

Early treatment of any changes in your cervix is very good at preventing cancer.

For more information, see Cervical screening & cervical smears.

If you have more questions, ask your general practice team.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed October 2022.


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Review key: HIUTR-269145