I Had an Abnormal Pap Smear. What Should I Do Next?

A pap smear, or pap test, is an important part of your reproductive health because it tests for cervical cancer and other life-threatening conditions. The number of pap smear screenings usually starts every three years after you reach 21, but it varies for everyone. Most women get normal results (over 90% of women surveyed who have had at least one pap smear report normal results), but even if you get abnormal results, it may not mean anything. With that said, if you get an abnormal result, it’s important to know what the results can mean and how you should proceed.

Women in the Arlington, Texas area with concerns about their pap smear results can get reliable help from Dr. Joan Bergstrom and the staff of doctors at Women’s Health Services. The experienced, compassionate team at Women’s Health Services is ready for whatever results your test may bring with a wide selection of innovative therapies and treatments.

What does it mean to get an abnormal result?

It’s important to know a number of factors that can affect results, such as where you are in your menstrual cycle, the use of powders, sprays, vaginal suppositories, douches, or how recently you’ve had sex. Any of these may cause the results to be less accurate, resulting in inconclusive results, which may indicate the cells are not normal, but not necessarily different enough to be classified as abnormal.

An abnormal result literally only means there are abnormal cervical cells present. By itself, this result doesn’t mean anything is wrong, only that some cervical cells have changed in some way. 

What conditions can abnormal results cause?

Even if your abnormal cells aren’t cancerous, there is a chance it may be caused by other conditions. These include:

Vaginal infection

This may present with symptoms other than abnormal cells like vaginal itching or odorous discharge and is easily treated. Additional testing may be required to rule out other conditions.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

A common result of an abnormal pap smear, this sexually transmitted disease (STD) may not show any symptoms. It may clear up on its own, but it may also lead to certain types of cancer, including cervical cancer.

Other sexually transmitted diseases

STDs like trichomoniasis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes can also result in abnormal results. These are more common in women between ages 16 and 35 and can lead to other conditions like infertility.

Cervical Dysplasia

This is a type of abnormal cell that may over time lead to cervical cancer. This condition may present in different forms, with low to mid-grade dysplasia only requiring monitoring and high grade leading to removal.

What should I do?

Your next action will depend on which result you get back. Inconclusive tests may require another pap smear or a colposcopy which uses a microscope to inspect your cervix. If the results come back negative for abnormal cells, you’re in the clear. If the results indicate STDs they can be confirmed with other types of testing. Other results of abnormal cells may be treated with other methods like antibiotics. Evidence of early signs of cancer can be treated by destroying the cells using methods like freezing (cryosurgery), cone biopsy, or loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) to prevent cancer from developing.

Abnormal results can mean a number of different things, but whatever the cause, we’ll be able to treat you. If you’re ready to discuss your results and possible treatment, make an appointment with Dr. Bergstrom and the doctors at Women’s Health Services today.

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