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Around 1 in 20 women will receive an abnormal smear result. It’s completely normal to feel anxious if you’ve had a letter telling you your smear test results are abnormal. But what does it mean? Should you be worried? At The Gynae Centre we offer further investigation using colposcopy to look for abnormalities in the cells, and are able to provide the appropriate treatment, if any is required.
How we can help you
We provide the full range of smear test-related services. Our team of caring nurses and consultants are skilled making patients comfortable.
A smear is obtained by gently scraping the outer part of the cervix which is nowadays dissolved in a preservative pot, where the cells are examined under a microscope for abnormalities. Cervical smears are only able to detect abnormal cells in about 50% of cases but can rule them out in 90% of cases.
Abnormal smear results usually create anxiety in patients, so we offer same day appointments. Where results show mild, moderate or severe abnormalities, it does not mean that you have cancer. They only indicate pre-cancerous abnormalities, which if left untreated can progress to cancer. We believe that all abnormalities should be investigated by a colposcopy as soon as possible.
Colposcopy is an examination of the cervix by the microscope. It is a simple procedure which involves inserting a speculum for an internal examination. A diluted solution of 5% acetic acid is applied and the cervix is examined for white areas. It is usually associated with the discomfort encountered during a smear test and takes only 5 minutes to complete. A biopsy may be taken from these areas (slightly more painful) and sent for further testing in the Laboratory. Although the consultant will be able to give you some idea, however the final outcome can only be obtained after the biopsy results.
Involves removing a small cone from the tip of the cervix by a hot wire loop. This may be done under local anaesthesia in the clinic or under general anaesthesia in the hospital. In either case there should be no pain during or after the procedure. It allows for removal of the abnormal area and histology so that we can ascertain the degree of abnormality. The cervix usually grows back to normal but slightly shorter within 6 weeks. You will require follow up after 6 months and once a year for life since a small percentage of women will have recurrence.
Learn more about smear tests and results
Most countries offer the first cervical screen test as soon as you become sexually active. In the UK/NHS it is offered at the age of 25. The reason for this is that it is rare to develop cancer before the age of 25. Any changes in the cells and small abnormalities that are seen in women under 25 are usually normal and will tend to resolve themselves naturally. Over the age of 25, changes in the cervical cells are considered more serious.
At The Gynae Centre we follow the same policy, but we are happy to do the test for anyone under the age of 25 who requests it.
Most countries offer screens every 2-3 years. We recommend that you have one every 2 years.
Most, but not all of cervical cancer cells occur due to infection with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The HPV virus is sexually transmitted and is very common among teenagers and women in their early twenties. Most women will be clear of the virus within one year, but some do not manage to clear the virus, due to a poor immune system. These women are most at risk of developing abnormal cervical cells.
In the past few years two vaccines against HPV have been developed – Gardasil and Cervarix. These vaccines help to protect against “some” of the types of HPV. There are 90 types of HPV but only 12 are high risk for anogenital cancer. Gardasil gives 93% protection against HPV 6/11/16 and 18 responsible for genital warts and cervical cancer and Cervarix gives 99 % protection against HPV 16/18 responsible for cervical cancer. You will need to take 3 injections at 0, 1-2 and 6 months.
We cannot stress how important it is to consider these vaccines seriously before becoming sexually active or if you are sexually active.
No. Read our article What does an abnormal smear test mean? for a detailed explanation.
Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CIN), also known as cervical dysplasia, is the potentially premalignant transformation and abnormal growth (dysplasia) of squamous cells on the surface of the cervix. CIN is graded according to the size of the abnormality in the nucleous. CIN 1 may be kept under observation for up to 2 years since it may simply be due to infection with HPV virus. CIN 2 and CIN 3 are strongly precancerous and should be removed by Loop high frequency diathermy.
We have a whole host of useful information on our blog to help educate you about all aspects of smear tests, and hopefully put your mind at ease.
Here are a few articles that you may like to read: