What happens if my result is abnormal?
If the results of your cervical screening are abnormal, you will be invited to come to another appointment, called a colposcopy. This will give the healthcare workers another chance to look at your cervix. They can see where the abnormal cells are and what treatment would be best for you. They'll normally take more samples from your cervix for further testing.
Depending on your situation, the treatment you will be offered will be different. They mostly involve removing or destroying the abnormal cells. Once the abnormal cells are gone, they won't be able to develop into cancer - so you can carry on with life as normal.
How are abnormal cells on the cervix removed?
Most of the time abnormal cells can be removed without surgery. Doctors can use a thin wire with a small electrical current to remove the abnormal cells. Using a speculum the wire is inserted through the vagina. The process is very safe and normally only takes 15 minutes. You will be given some anaesthetic to help with the pain. You can go home after, but bring a sanitary towel with you, as there might be some bleeding initially. To avoid infection, it's advised that you don't use a tampon or have sex for 4 weeks after the procedure.
Another option is to destroy the cells by burning or freezing them off. This might be done with a laser or a hot or cold probe. The treatments sound scary but they are very straight forward and you shouldn't worry. You will probably feel a bit of pain, like what you would get when you have your period. After it's finished you will be able to go home.
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
The point of cervical screening is to identify abnormal cells before cervical cancer develops. This means that you go for screening while you are still well and don't wait for symptoms to develop.
However, if you do notice any of the following symptoms, you must speak to a healthcare provider:
a) unusual vaginal bleeding
b) pain or discomfort during sex
c) change in vaginal discharge
d) pain in the area between the hip bones (pelvis).
While these can be earlier signs of cervical cancers, they are also common symptoms for other health problems, so it's good to speak to a healthcare provider if you notice these changes.