Understanding your results

The results of your Pap test (commonly referred to as a Pap smear) will be sent to the health professional and clinic or consulting rooms where you had the test.

When your provider gives you the Pap test result (or Pap smear result), you will be told the test was:

  • negative for cell changes (or a ‘normal’ test result)
  • unsatisfactory
  • abnormal, or sometimes people use the phrase ‘positive for cell changes’.

If your result is negative, it generally means you won’t need to have another Pap test for two years, or as advised by your Pap test provider.  

If your result is unsatisfactory, it usually means there was an error in collecting or reading the test. About 1.9% of tests are unsatisfactory.

About 5% of Pap tests show some abnormalities, which means there is evidence of some changes to the cells on your cervix. Try not to worry; almost all abnormal Pap test results are not due to cancer.

Your regular Pap test is the most effective way of discovering any abnormal changes in the early stages and helps you in avoiding cervical cancer. Your doctor will discuss with you what you should do next, based on your results.


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