My Pap Smear Results Were Abnormal — Now What?

A Pap smear, or Pap test, is a routine part of your health care as a woman. It screens for cervical cancer, which is the fourth most common type of cancer for women. Getting regular Pap smears is important because cervical cancer is most treatable when it’s detected early.

In general, women should have their first Pap test around age 21. If results are normal, expect to get another screening every three years. Women over 30 may only need to get a Pap test every five years. After age 65, there may be no need to continue Pap testing. 

Most of the time, Pap results come back normal. That means no abnormal — or potentially cancerous — cells were discovered during the test. If you get abnormal Pap smear results, it means abnormal cells were discovered, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. The doctor will need to do more tests to determine the cause.

One Oak Medical is here to help you through the entire testing process. Offering Pap smears and other OB/GYN services to women of all ages, our team can help you get an accurate diagnosis following abnormal Pap test results.

The causes of abnormal Pap smear results

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a sexually transmitted disease, and it’s the most common cause of abnormal Pap smear results. Although about 80% of women have a form of HPV sometime during their lives, there are no obvious symptoms; however, it is a leading cause of cervical cancer. That means if you have HPV, you’re at increased risk for developing cervical cancer.

Sometimes, other issues that are unrelated to cervical cancer can cause abnormal Pap results. These may include:

When you get a Pap smear, our team takes a small sample of cells from the outside of your cervix using a stick or a soft brush. The sample is sent to an outside lab for testing. It’s examined under a microscope to identify any signs of abnormal cell growth. 

Pap smears can’t be 100% accurate, and it’s possible that abnormal cells may be detected when there are none, or that abnormal cells aren’t detected when they are present. Getting regular Pap smears, though, is still the best way to detect and prevent cervical cancer, and treat it as early as possible. 

What to do after you get abnormal Pap smear results

When you receive the results of your Pap test and they’re abnormal, don’t panic. The next steps will depend on your history of Pap test results, medical history, and risk factors for cervical cancer. We may recommend a Pap test in 6-12 months to monitor any cellular changes if you’re in good health and you’re at low risk for developing cervical cancer. 

If you’ve had abnormal Pap results before, you have HPV, or you have other risk factors for cervical cancer, we may recommend additional testing or treatments to confirm a diagnosis.

Common testing includes a colposcopy to examine the tissue in your cervix, vagina, and vulva. In some cases, we perform a biopsy, or take a small sample of tissue for testing. The biopsy is tested for cancerous cells in a lab. Following your additional testing, our team works with you to understand your diagnosis and determine any next steps. 

Taking charge of your health and wellness starts with getting the routine testing you need. For well-woman exams, Pap smears, and more, make an appointment at One Oak Medical by phone or online today.

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