If a patient is told their pap smear (or pap test) was abnormal, it means that the test found abnormal cells on the cervix. Pap smears are done because they are the best way to prevent and detect cervical cancer. However, an abnormal result does not mean that the person tested has cancer. In fact, the chances of this happening are very low.
Why Would a Pap Smear Come Up As Abnormal?
The majority of abnormal cell changes are the result of catching HPV. This is a sexually transmitted infection.
In most cases, the cell changes will go away on their own. But some types of HPV have been associated with cervical cancer. This is why getting regular pap smears is so important.
Another reason for cell changes are other infections. These infections may be caused by bacteria or yeast and are easily treated. Women going through menopause may also get abnormal results. Cell changes are a normal part of getting older.
Who is at Risk of Getting an Abnormal Pap Smear?
Indulging in sexually risky behavior increases the likelihood of getting HPV. HPV raises a woman’s risk of having an abnormal smear test.
The HPV virus can stay in the body for many years without the host experiencing any symptoms. Even if a person is having responsible sex at present, they may still have an abnormal smear if they were previously exposed to the virus. Women who smoke or have a compromised immune system are more at risk than non-smokers and women with healthy immune systems.
Will Cell Changes Cause Symptoms?
Although cell changes and HPV usually do not cause symptoms, if the woman being tested has another sexually transmitted infection she may experience:
- A vaginal discharge which is a different amount, color, odor or texture than normal.
- A pain, burning or itching in the genital area during urination or sex.
- Sores, blisters, rashes, warts or lumps on or around the genitals.
What Happens After An Abnormal Pap Smear
If a woman’s OBGYN says she has an abnormal smear, she will need to get further tests. Examples of these tests are a colposcopy (where the doctor looks at the cervix through a lit magnifying tool) and an HPV test.
Women will also be asked to get another smear in 6 to 12 months. Those who have normal test results only need to get a smear once every three years.
Before treatment is prescribed a colposcopy needs to be done. During the procedure the doctor will also take a small sample if cervical tissue. The process of gathering and testing this sample is called a biopsy.
The treatment will vary depending on the severity of the problem. In mild cases, the doctor may recommend no treatment at all. With moderate to severe cases, surgery may be required to remove or destroy the cells.
Having a doctor the patient feels comfortable with makes the process easier. Ideally, patients will see the same doctor for all their gynecological needs as having a full patient history will help the doctor create a treatment plan.
Choosing a doctor at The Woodlands OBGYN Associates is recommended in starting a doctor-patient relationship and taking care of your gyneological needs and your health. Get started by calling The Woodlands OBGYN Associates today.