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My Pap Smear Results Are Abnormal: Now What?

My Pap Smear Results Are Abnormal: Now What?

Pap smears are an essential preventive step in women’s health. They help with early detection and successful treatment of cervical cancer. Cases and deaths due to cervical cancer have declined notably in the past 40 years, largely due to Pap smears becoming a routine part of gynecological care. 

It’s important to understand, however, that a Pap smear is not used to diagnose cancer. The screening test identifies irregular cells that require a little more investigation to rule out potential cancer. 

If you have abnormal Pap smear results, the team at Capital Women’s Care in Silver Spring and Laurel, Maryland, wants you to understand what it means and the next steps in your health care. 

What do abnormal Pap smear results mean?

Your Pap smear is part of your routine pelvic exam. Your doctor swabs the cells on your cervix and sends the sample to a laboratory for analysis. If the test comes back “abnormal,” it means irregular cells showed up. 

Irregular cells can be due to inflammation, a yeast infection, recent intercourse, pregnancy, aging, or a just-ended period.

Very often, if you have an abnormal Pap smear result, your provider simply asks you to come in for a retest in a few months, especially if they suspect your results have a common, unalarming cause. Usually, your second test comes back negative — meaning no abnormal cells are found.

When do you need more involved testing?

Your doctor may recommend a test called a colposcopy based on the past test results, your personal and family medical history, and symptoms like abnormal vaginal bleeding or pain during sexual intercourse. 

During a colposcopy, your doctor can see the cells on your cervix more clearly. While you lie on an exam table propped up in stirrups, they use a device called a colposcope to magnify the view of your cervix. 

This up-close view reveals any unusual tissue or cells that require a biopsy. The test may be slightly uncomfortable, but it isn’t painful. 

What if abnormal cells are precancerous?

If the abnormal cells on your cervix are precancerous, you may undergo a LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision procedure). During this procedure, your doctor uses a wire that’s been heated by an electrical current to remove suspicious cells and tissue from the cervix. 

The tissue obtained during a LEEP procedure is sent to a lab for further analysis. Often this procedure ends your treatment plan and clears all precancerous cells from your cervix. 

If you have abnormal cells that sit up high in your cervical canal, you may need a cone biopsy. This procedure involves removing a cone-shaped wedge of tissue from your cervix. Some normal tissue is also removed to make sure no abnormal cells have spread. 

This biopsy can determine the extent of precancerous or cancerous cells. 

If you’re due for a pelvic exam or Pap smear, contact the OB/GYN team here at Capital Women’s Care. Call or use this website to set up your visit today.

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