Dr Glenda McLaren
Obstetrician & Gynaecologist

What to Expect From Your Cervical Screening Test (CST) Results

After your Cervical Screening Test (CST), your results usually come back from the lab in about 1-3 weeks. Depending on what you have previously arranged with your GP Doctor, Clinic or Gynaecologist, you may receive a phone call, or have a consultation for your results, and information about any next steps you need to take. Typically, your doctor will contact you for a follow-up appointment if the results require further discussion, testing and/or investigations.

Your doctor, whether it is your GP or a Gynaecologist, will discuss your results and explain what they mean (and what they don’t mean!), and inform you if any further follow-up appointments or procedures are required.

What type of information is shown on your Cervical Screening Test (CST) results?

The Cervical Screening Test results will typically show one of three different outcomes, including:

1. Unsatisfactory

An unsatisfactory Cervical Screening Test means that the laboratory staff could not detect any cells to provide a valid report, so you may be asked to have a repeat test.

Don’t worry – 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 technical reasons. Ask your Doctor to answer any questions you have about why you may need to repeat the test.

2. Negative

If your results are ‘Negative’ – they show that HPV infection was not detected. You likely won’t be required to take any further immediate action and will be sent a reminder to have your next screening test in five years if you are registered with the national screening program.

3. Positive

If HPV is detected on your test, you will receive a ‘Positive’ test result. Additional tests will automatically be done on the same sample of cells in the laboratory at the time. Depending on the outcome of these additional sample tests, your Doctor will contact you for a follow up appointment, and will likely discuss different courses of action, which may include:

  • Positive – ‘Return to Screen’: You may receive a ‘Return to Screen in 12 months’ positive result, which means you tested positive for HPV infection; however you don’t need further investigation at this time. You’ll need to have another test in a year (instead of the usual five years), and by that time, there is a good chance that your body’s immune system will rid itself of the HPV. If the HPV infection is 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 (if you are not already seeing a Gynaecologist such as Bloom Women’s Health for your initial screening, you will be referred to one).
  • Positive – ‘Refer to Specialist:’ You may be referred to a specialist, such as Bloom Women’s Health, who will discuss options with you for further investigations. It is common for a follow up procedure to be recommended, generally either a colposcopy or a LLETZ procedure:
    • A colposcopy identifies where abnormal cells are in the cervix, and what they look like. A Gynaecologist will usually take a tissue sample (biopsy) from the surface of the cervix for examination under a microscope by a pathologist.
    • Large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ) or cone biopsy is performed if early-stage cancer is detected. It is performed under a local anaesthetic and removes cervical tissue for examination.

NOTE: It’s important to remember that HPV infections usually clear on their own over one-two years, and that most abnormal cells are not cervical cancer and can usually be treated quickly and painlessly.

It is natural to feel worried if you have just found out that your CST returned a Positive result. At Bloom Women’s Health, our team support you every step of the way through discussing additional tests and investigations, and making sure you are well-informed and comfortable about the process.

Where are my Cervical Screening Test Results recorded?

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/or Gynaecologist and makes it easy for you to manage your participation.

Where can I access further information or resources?

The Australian Government has a range of resources available for download on their website. Click here to download ‘A guide to understanding your Cervical Screening Test results’