Your feelings about cervical screening

Fear

When a woman is told she has an abnormal screening test result, the first reaction is often one of fear. Many women may immediately think that they have cancer, so it's important to remember that most women who have an abnormal result have early changes in the cells and don't have cancer.

Shame

There has been a lot of publicity about CIN and its link with sexual activity and HPV. This has sometimes led to women feeling guilty or ashamed if they've been told they have CIN. However, you shouldn't feel you're to blame in any way. Exactly how a person gets the virus is often uncertain and it's not always possible to find a sexual explanation. Most women have HPV at some point in their life without even knowing it. In many women, their immune system will get rid of the virus naturally.

Embarrassment

Understandably, many women may find the treatments for CIN embarrassing and possibly frightening. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor or nurse as many questions as you like, as this may help to put your mind at rest. 

If you feel that you need support, you can contact our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.

References and thanks

Thanks

This section has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support's Cancer Information and Development team. It has been approved by our medical editor, Dr Terry Priestman, Consultant Clinical Oncologist.

With thanks to: Ms TJ Day, NHS Cancer Screening Programme; Professor David Luesley, Professor of Gynaecological Oncology; Mr Russell Luker, Consultant Gynaecologist; Ms Catherine Muggeridge, Colposcopy Clinical Nurse Specialist; Ms Marianne Wood, Colposcopy Clinical Nurse Specialist; and the people affected by cancer who reviewed this edition.

You could help us too when you join our Cancer Voices Network.

Back to Cervical screening

The cervix

The cervix is the lower part of the womb (uterus). It’s often called the neck of the womb.

What is cervical screening?

Cervical screening can help stop cancer developing in the cervix by finding abnormal cells early.

Preparing for having a cervical screening test

A cervical screening test is a very simple procedure and takes less than five minutes.

Getting your cervical screening results

You should get your results within about two weeks of having your cervical screening test.

After treatment for CIN

Most women feel fine after treatment for CIN but some may feel unwell for a few hours. You will be referred for regular screening tests.

Treating CIN

If you have been diagnosed with CIN, you may have treatment to remove the abnormal cells. There are different types of treatment.

Cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN)

Cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN) is a term used to describe changes in the surface (squamous) cells of the cervix.

Grading CIN

Knowing the grade of CIN will help your specialist plan the best treatment for you.

Diagnosing CIN

A colposcopy is used to confirm whether you have cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN) and how severe it might be.