What does a low-grade change mean on my Pap test result?

About 4% of women, or about 95,000 Australian women each year, have tests that show low-grade cell changes, or low-grade ‘abnormalities’.

If you are told that your Pap test shows indications of ‘low-grade changes’ to the cells of your cervix, it means the laboratory has found early changes to the cells that probably indicate a HPV infection.

A low-grade abnormality does not mean you have cervical cancer. The most likely thing is that your body’s immune system will clear itself of the infection.

In a very small number of women the HPV infection does not clear by itself but stays in the cervix. In these women, there is a risk that abnormalities will develop; abnormalities that might lead to cervical cancer over many years if they are not treated.

Treatment for low-grade changes

Your doctor, nurse or community health worker should explain the follow-up treatment for you.

You will usually be advised to have a repeat Pap test in 12 months, to make sure the infection has cleared.

But if you are older than 29 and don’t have a history of normal Pap tests for the past two or three years, your doctor will probably recommend a repeat Pap test within six months or a colposcopy. This is because women in this age group with persistent HPV infections have a slightly higher risk of developing a high-grade abnormality.

If you’re pregnant, you will have follow-up treatment after your baby is born.

In all cases, your doctor will explain the best treatment for you, based on your age, your test history and your latest test result.

Pathway for management of low-grade changes

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Low grade treatment pathway


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