A Pap smear is a test done to find abnormalities of the cells on the cervix that potentially could turn into cervical cancer. Fortunately, cervical cancer in the U.S. is relatively uncommon. There are only about 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer per year and most cases are treated successfully if detected early.
Common causes for an abnormal pap smear include vaginal infection and cervicitis. Infection can cause inflammation and inflamed cells may appear abnormal or simply prevent the ability to see non-inflamed, normal cells. Recent sexual activity may irritate cells locally as well. Having multiple partners also increases the number of irritants and the chance of inflammation in response. Human Papilloma Virus, commonly referred to as HPV, may affect cells in the area, not just at the site of a lesion, or wart, which is visible, but in surrounding areas. Because there are so many factors influencing the condition of the cervix, there are a number of approaches to take when responding to inflammation or an abnormal pap smear.
Follow up may consist of simply repeating the Pap test or utilizing the liquid-based Pap smear with HPV testing, because it has a higher rate of detecting abnormal cells. Looking at the cervix with the aid of magnification, called colposcopy with possible biopsy, is another step that may be taken to evaluate the significance of the Pap smear findings.
Treatment for an Abnormal Pap Smear
Treatment for an abnormal Pap smear is based upon history, exam and test results. It is possible that your physician may be able to assure you that no further procedures are necessary beyond close follow up. However, additional treatment may be needed. Abnormal cells can now be removed without hysterectomy in a significant number of cases.
Conization, a procedure in which a portion of the cervix is removed in the shape of a cone, can be performed in our office. Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedures, or LEEP, is a method of excision using the simple and effective use of a heated wire loop. The benefit of LEEP is that the heated wire also cauterizes blood vessels as it goes, decreasing bleeding, as compared to surgical conization by scalpel and separate cautery device. Cryo conization is another method of removing cervical tissue. This procedure uses very cold temperatures to produce a measured result. There is little blood loss, but the resulting tissue sloughing off may go on for a number of days. Cryotherapy, an older procedure, is rarely used today.
Knowledge is confidence and is an important element in alleviating fear.
Should you desire more information, please call our office to speak with a nurse.