Next Steps After an Abnormal Pap Smear

Pap smears. Uncomfortable to talk about but something every woman must go through. The worst part of a Pap smear is hearing you have abnormal results. Don’t let panic set it. Our experts at Women’s Health Services are here to guide you through what’s next. 

Pap smear basics

During a Pap smear, a thin brush is inserted into your cervix to collect a small sample of cells. These cells are then sent off to a lab to be tested for any abnormalities. Pap smears mainly check for infections, evidence of HPV, and cervical cancer. 

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States and often presents as warts. HPV symptoms are usually mild or nonexistent but they can lead to cancer in serious cases.

Only in rare cases is cancer detected, but we encourage you to schedule regular Pap smears so you can seek treatment quickly. 

What happens if I have an abnormal Pap smear?

The most common reason to receive abnormal results is because of cellular changes in your cervix, likely due to HPV. These changes are often monitored until they return to normal. 

Here are the most common reasons for an abnormal result on your Pap smear:

Benign changes

If you find you have benign changes after receiving your Pap smear it means your results are normal but you likely have an infection causing inflammation in your cells. You’ll typically need a pelvic exam to check for the cause of your infection. 


Atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance, or ASCUS, simply means you have some odd-looking cells in your cervix that could possibly be HPV. You’ll need a colposcopy to determine more.

A colposcopy is a lot like a normal Pap smear instead this procedure uses a microscope to give us a better idea of what changes are happening in your cervix. 

Your Pap smear results will determine whether you have ASC-H. If you do, that means there are high-grade changes in your cervix that could be evidence of a more serious underlying condition. 


Low grade squamous intraepithelial lesions, LSIL, and high grade squamous intraepithelial lesions, HSIL, means that you’ve been infected with HPV. With LSIL you’ll need a repeat Pap smear after a few months to monitor the infection. 

If you do need a repeat Pap smear, it’s best to make sure any cervical or vaginal infections, yeast infections, or STIs are treated. It’s also a good idea to schedule your Pap smear around your period. 

HSIL is more serious and will require a colposcopy to make sure the high-grade changes in your cervix don’t become cancerous. 

Atypical glandular cells

If results reveal you have atypical glandular cells, it means you have developed cells that may become cancerous. We will order more tests, specifically a colposcopy, to rule out cancer. 


The presence of cancerous cells is rare, especially in young women. However, if your results show evidence of cancerous cells, we can guide you towards excellent oncological care and treatment. 

No matter what your results show, we’re here to help, educate, and support you through whatever comes next. Our team is dedicated to your health and making you feel comfortable with your treatment plan. Call our office or schedule an appointment online today for a consultation.

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