Freephone information line: 1800 45 45 55

Smear test results

Information for women who are concerned about their smear test results can be found here >

  1. About smear test results
  2. Smear test result delays
  3. How the smear test result is provided to a woman
  4. What do the results mean?
  5. What does the advice with the result mean?

About smear test results

The majority of smear test results are negative or normal.

Each smear test result is accompanied by a recommendation to advise what needs to be done next.

The laboratory may have tested the smear test sample for certain types of HPV infection. This is to help determine the recommendation to accompany the smear test result. The factsheet HPV and cervical screening provides further information.

The doctor or practice nurse will explain the result and advise the recommended follow-up.

The recommendation in the letter from CervicalCheck following a smear test should always be followed.

To read or listen to information about smear test results, see About your smear test results in the Information resources section.

back to top

Smear test result delays

Due to increased demand for repeat cervical screening tests (smear tests), there is a delay in providing results of all smear tests. This is for both repeat smear tests and routine tests.

In the past, you would get your smear test result within 4-6 weeks of your test. Currently, results may take up to 12 weeks. We are sorry for this delay and are working to reduce these waiting times.

You may get a reminder letter for your next smear test before your results letter arrives. You should wait for your results letter.

You should also check our online register. Make sure your contact details are up-to-date. You should also check we have the right address for you.

Smear tests are not diagnostic. So if you are experiencing any symptoms, you should consult your GP without delay. Symptoms may include unexplained vaginal bleeding, bleeding after sex, unusual discharge or pelvic pain.

How the smear test result is provided to a woman

The doctor is sent the result of the smear test by the laboratory. CervicalCheck writes a letter to the woman advising her that her smear test result is available from her smeartaker (doctor or practice nurse) and advising her of her next step within the screening programme.

back to top

What do the results mean?

In most cases smear tests do not show any changes in the cells of the cervix and the result is negative. This means that you will be called for your next smear test in three or five years, depending on your age.

In some cases, smear tests show changes in the cells of the cervix. These changes are common and most are caused by a virus called the human papillomavirus (HPV).  HPV is a common virus usually spread by skin to skin contact during sexual activity. Any person who has ever engaged in sexual activity is likely to have been exposed to HPV. Most HPV infections clear up on their own but can persist without symptoms for many years.

If changes in the cells of the cervix are found, they can be low grade or high grade.

Low grade changes are common and most clear up on their own. When these changes are found, your smear test sample will be tested for certain types of HPV infection. The factsheet HPV and cervical screening provides further information.

If high grade changes are found, these are less likely to clear up on their own and you will need a more detailed examination called a colposcopy. A colposcopy is free of charge and the doctor or nurse who took your smear test will arrange it for you.

back to top

What does the advice with the result mean?

My next smear test is due in three or five years (routine screening)

If you are advised to have your next smear test in three or five years, then routine screening has been recommended. This means that either no cell changes were found or that minor cell changes were found but your HPV test is negative, so there is no cause for worry.

My next smear test is due before three years

You may need to have smear tests more often if you have attended a colposcopy clinic in the past or if an earlier smear test is advised because of your medical history.

If the laboratory was not able to read your smear test, you will need to have another test. You must wait for three months from the date of your last smear test. This allows time for the cells of the cervix to grow back.

I have been asked to contact the doctor or nurse for my smear test result

You may need to have a colposcopy for a more detailed examination of your cervix. This is free of charge and the doctor or nurse who took your test can give you more information and arrange your colposcopy for you.

It may be that your smear test has shown minor cell changes and some HPV types have been found. The colposcopy will show if you can be called back for another smear test in three years of if you need a simple treatment or not.

Or your smear test may have shown high grade changes in the cells. You may need a simple treatment in the colposcopy clinic to remove these cells.

What is a colposcopy?

A colposcopy is a detailed examination of the cervix that is carried out in a hospital out-patient clinic. The doctor or nurse in the clinic will look at your cervix using a type of microscope called a colposcope. This does not go inside you. A visit to a CervicalCheck colposcopy clinic is free of charge.

For more information about being referred for a colposcopy, talk to your doctor or nurse or see the Colposcopy section.



back to top

Is cuid den tSeirbhís Náisiúnta Scagthástála é CervicalCheck
Bosca Oifig Phoist 161, Luimneach
Saorghlao 1800 45 45 55
CervicalCheck is part of the National Cancer Screening Service
PO Box 161 Limerick
Freephone 1800 45 45 55

Web Design by Webtrade

Is cuid den Rannóg Sláinte agus Folláine i bhFeidhmeannacht na Seirbhíse Sláinte í an tSeirbhís Náisiúnta Scagthástála. Cuimsíonn sí BreastCheck – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Cíoch, CervicalCheck – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Ceirbheacs, BowelScreen – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Putóige agus Diabetic RetinaScreen – An Clár Náisiúnta Scagthástála Reitiní do Dhiaibéitigh.

The National Screening Service is part of the Health and Wellbeing Division of the Health Service Executive. It encompasses BreastCheck – The National Breast Screening Programme, CervicalCheck – The National Cervical Screening Programme, BowelScreen – The National Bowel Screening Programme and Diabetic RetinaScreen – The National Diabetic Retinal Screening Programme.