A pap smear is a routine test typically performed during a gynecological exam. It’s a test to determine the presence of abnormal or cancerous cells, specifically cervical cancer. Pap smear testing is important because cervical cancer is a type of cancer which often doesn’t have any warning signs or symptoms until the cancer is in the later stages.
During a pap smear, cells are collected from the cervix and sent off to a laboratory for testing. Most test results come back negative, however, there are a few instances where you may have an abnormal pap smear.
Reasons for an abnormal pap smear include:
- Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Early cell changes which need monitoring
- Early cell changes which need to be treated early
If you have an abnormal pap test result, your GYN doctor will consider these factors when developing next steps:
- Your previous pap test results
- Your previous treatments for cervical cell changes
- Your personal health factors including your age
Your GYN doctor may recommend these next steps after an abnormal pap smear:
- Having a repeat pap test in 1 to 3 years
- Having a colposcopy and biopsy
- Receiving treatment for high grade cervical cell changes
When your GYN doctor recommends a colposcopy, during the exam, your GYN doctor will apply a vinegar solution to the cervix to highlight abnormal areas. A colposcope is then used to light and magnify the cervix and check abnormal areas. A tissue sample can be taken for a biopsy to diagnose cervical cancer.
If your GYN doctor recommends receiving treatment for high grade cervical cell changes, treatment may include:
- Loop electrosurgical excision to electrify and remove abnormal tissue
- Cold knife conization to remove abnormal tissue
- Laser therapy to destroy abnormal tissue
- Cryotherapy to freeze abnormal tissue
- Total hysterectomy for severe cases of cervical cancer
To learn more about the importance of pap smear testing and management of an abnormal pap smear result, call your GYN doctor today.