What does an abnormal smear mean?
An abnormal smear means that there is an area of cells changing in the skin of your cervix. It does not mean you have cancer, although cancer does occur in a small number of women with abnormal smears. Sometimes changes may be due to viral infections of your cervix and vaginal or cervical infections.
If you have an abnormal smear, the changes of your cervix can be grouped into 2 types:
- Low grade change (CIN 1): mild change
- High-grade change (CIN 2- CIN 3): moderate to severe change.
CIN (also known as pre-cancerous change) is short for Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia. This means abnormal cell changes in the cervix. The greater the degree of change the higher the CIN or grade you have. If you have had an abnormal smear and you are unsure of the degree of change you have, please ask your doctor or smear taker.
The cervical smear has been the cornerstone of cervical screening cancer for many years. Despite its success as a preventive screening tool for cancer the cervical smear has its limitations. A smear may give up to 15% false negative result and therefore false reassurance.
What is a colposcopy?
A Colposcopy is an examination that allows your Gynaecologist to look at your cervix (located at the upper part of the vagina) using a powerful microscope on a stand called colposcope. The microscope does not go inside your body.
For the examination you will be asked to lie on a special bed with your legs raised and supported by leg rests. Some women find this kind of examination undignified and embarrassing. We do understand it and try to minimize this for you.
When is a colposcopy needed?
- If you have had an abnormal smear, a Colposcopy will help find out what degree of cell change you may have on your cervix.
- If your Doctor is concerned about how your cervix looks, a Colposcopy can check this out for you.
- If you have had some abnormal vaginal bleeding, especially after sexual intercourse, a Colposcopy can assist in finding out the reason for this.
- If you have a problem with genital warts, these need to be checked and treatment arranged accordingly.