Cervical Screening

Living with abnormal cervical cells

Following diagnosis and/or treatment for abnormal cervical cells, also known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), national guidelines recommend more regular follow-up.

Six months after receiving treatment for abnormal cells in your cervix, a cervical screening test should be carried out to check for any cell changes. If the test shows no or low grade changes, the sample will also be tested for human papilloma virus (HPV). If HPV is not found, you will not need to be screened for another three years. If HPV is found, or more significant cell changes are detected, you should be referred for another colposcopy (NHS guidelines).

If check-ups are normal, women are advised to have screening every year for up to ten years. After this time, if further problems have not occurred, screening tests will return to normal intervals of 3 or 5 yearly.

Several women, who were recently diagnosed, felt anxious about their initial six monthly and yearly screening test results in case they showed that their abnormal cells had returned. Others, who had had normal screening test results for several years, said they now felt confident about the future. Several believed regular cervical screening tests were important in enabling them to feel confident that if any changes were to occur again they would be detected early.

Most women do not have ongoing problems after their diagnosis and treatment for abnormal cervical cells. However, some women had recurrences of abnormal cervical cells and various treatments over a period of many years. Annual cervical screening tests and colposcopy examinations had become a part of their life.

A few who returned to having three yearly screening tests after a period of annual screening tests said they felt less secure about their health than when they were having more regular check-ups. One woman had paid to have a yearly screening test through a private, non-NHS organisation because she wanted the reassurance that her cervix was healthy and there were no further problems.

Being diagnosed with abnormal cervical cells had been a shock for many women and many considered themselves lucky to have access to cervical screening which had detected the changes in their cervix early enough to enable treatment and before it developed in to cancer. Women who attended regularly for screening said it had confirmed their practice of having regular screening. Others, who had been more haphazard about their screening, said that their diagnosis had led them to go regularly for screening.

Being diagnosed with abnormal cervical cells had led to a change in priorities for some women, either in realising how important their health was, or by making changes to their work/life balance.  After their diagnosis some women felt more able, than they had been before, to discuss gynaecological matters openly with their friends or family and to encourage others to go regularly for cervical screening.

Last reviewed October 2015.

Last updated October 2015.

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