Following a cervical smear test, the results can be interpreted to make recommendations if any further action is required. Usually, abnormalities picked up in smear tests will turn out to be harmless, but early identification and monitoring is essential for early diagnosis of any more severe issues. Cervical cancer is one very rare but very serious possibility.
What does an abnormal result mean?
On average, one in every twelve smear tests will produce an “abnormal” result. The vast majority of these are because of very minor changes in cells from the cervix, known as dyskaryosis. These changes are usually temporary, and even with no treatment, cancer will not develop as a result.
In rare circumstances, dyskaryosis can eventually develop into cancer, which usually takes many years to happen. However, knowing that your smear test result is abnormal and taking steps to manage these cell changes can significantly reduce the risk of cervical cancer.
What happens next?
Sometimes, after one or more cervical smear tests produce an abnormal result, you may be recommended for a colposcopy. This is a more detailed examination conducted by your gynaecologist, using a colposcope to look closely at the inside of the cervix.
A colposcopy will help to identify whether a course of treatment is needed. In order to come to this conclusion, they may wait for a while to see if the dyskaryosis resolves itself, and this is completely safe at this stage. If your doctor or gynaecologist believes the changes observed over a period of time have a significant chance of getting worse, then treatment would be their recommendation.
Even in cases where patients have moderate or serious dyskaryosis, this does not lead to a cancer diagnosis in most cases. It does mean that the chance of the changes reverting to normal without the aid of treatment is lower. Your medical professional will guide you through the process and explain why they are recommending any course of action, but usually the priority will always be to identify potential issues early when treatment is much easier and more effective.