Understanding your Cervical Screening Test results

Find out what your Cervical Screening Test results mean and what to do if more tests are needed. Understand what may happen if your test result is positive (meaning human papillomavirus (HPV) was found) and what happens with your results.

You should receive your results within a few weeks of having the Cervical Screening Test.

Negative test result

If you’re told to ‘return to screen in 5 years’ this means the test did not find any human papillomavirus (HPV).

You should get a letter a few months before your next test is due. Remember to keep your address up to date with Medicare, so we know how to reach you. You can also update your address directly with the National Cancer Screening Register.

National Cancer Screening Register

Contact the National Cancer Screening Register to update your contact details or ask questions about the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program or National Cervical Screening Program. You can call between 8 am and 6 pm Monday to Friday, except national public holidays, from anywhere in Australia.

Results needing more tests

Unsatisfactory test result

This means the lab can’t read your sample. You’ll need to come back for a repeat Cervical Screening Test in 6 to 12 weeks.

An unsatisfactory result doesn’t mean anything’s wrong. It just means the lab couldn't read the test properly. This can happen for a variety of reasons. The sample collected might not have had enough cells, or the test may not have worked for another, technical reason.

Return to screen in 12 months

This means you tested positive for HPV but don't need further investigation at this time. You'll need to have another test in a year. There's a good chance that your body's immune system will get rid of the HPV in that time.

If the HPV infection’s gone when you are retested, you’ll return to 5-yearly screening. If it is still there, you will be referred to see a specialist.

Refer to a specialist

This means your results show either:

  • you tested positive for a type of HPV that needs further investigation
  • the test found abnormal cells that may need treatment.

Your health professional will refer you to a specialist (usually a gynaecologist) for a colposcopy. This is a procedure that feels like having a Cervical Screening Test and involves the specialist looking at the cells of the cervix more closely. It’s very important to attend the appointment for further investigation.

This does not mean you have cervical cancer.

Talk to your health professional if you have any questions about your result.

Remember that an HPV infection usually doesn't turn into cervical cancer, but it's best to keep an eye on it. It can take 10 to 15 years for an HPV infection to cause cell changes which may eventually lead to cervical cancer.

Recording results

The National Cancer Screening Register collects and monitors information about your screening, including test results. The register's privacy statement outlines how they handle this information.

The register sends invitations and reminders when you are due for your next Cervical Screening Test. This provides a safety net in addition to your GP and makes it easy for you to manage your participation.

Date last updated:

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