My Pap Smear Results Were Abnormal – Now What?

It’s perfectly normal to feel worried when you receive abnormal Pap smear results. When your doctor says your Pap test came back abnormal, it means that the test found some cells on your cervix that don’t look like they should. A Pap test may be done as part of a woman’s routine wellness check. It’s the most effective tool to prevent cervical cancer. However, having an abnormal Pap test doesn’t mean you have cancer.

What is a Pap test? 

Far fewer women die of cervical cancer today than in the past, and that’s partly due to women getting regular Pap screenings. A Pap test is a highly sensitive screening tool that can detect cervical cancer at its earliest stages. The screening is simple, easy, and painless.

To perform a Pap screening, the doctor gently scrapes away cells from your cervix. The cells are examined for abnormal growth. A Pap smear can also detect abnormal changes that may turn into cancer later.

Detecting abnormal changes, precancerous and cancerous growths, early on improves the likelihood of successful treatment and cure.

What does an abnormal Pap test mean?

An abnormal Pap result means that some of the cells of your cervix have undergone changes. This doesn’t mean that you have cervical cancer. It’s important to know that most women with abnormal changes to cervical cells do not have cancer.

We tell patients not to panic at the first instance of an abnormal Pap result. Your provider will review your results so that you know what’s going on and inform you of the next steps.

Why are my Pap test results abnormal?

Most of the time human papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for abnormal Pap results. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. There are many types of HPV. Some of them cause genital warts, and high-risk types can cause cervical cancer.

Your body handles HPV as it does any other virus, and in most cases, it clears the infection on its own. Sometimes HPV sticks around, and it when it does, it increases the risk of cervical cancer. In fact, HPV is responsible for most cases of cervical cancer.

Understanding abnormal Pap test results

Low-grade changes mean that some cervical cells show mildly abnormal changes. These types of changes almost always go away on their own and are usually caused by an HPV infection. A high-grade abnormal result suggests more serious changes to the cervical cells that are of greater concern. 

Leading gynecologist Dr. Richard Bardowell will explain your specific Pap test result. It may ease your worries to know that if you’ve kept up with your regular Pap exams, the chances of having cervical cancer are low. Women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer typically have not had a Pap smear within the five years prior to diagnosis. 

What are my next steps after receiving an abnormal Pap test?

Dr. Bardowell and his team will provide guidance and support throughout the next steps if you receive an abnormal Pap result. What you do next depends on your individual Pap test result. Dr. Bardowell may schedule you for a repeat test or may recommend a procedure called a colposcopy that allows him to get a better look at your cervix.  

Staying healthy

If your abnormal Pap results are anything to worry about, Dr. Bardowell will discuss the next steps. Abnormal cells can be destroyed in various ways, including freezing and a Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP). Both procedures are safe and effective. Once the abnormal cells are destroyed, the body can replace them with healthy cells.

Regular Pap screenings are an important part of preventing cervical cancer. To learn more about women’s health screenings and to schedule an appointment with Dr. Bardowell at our Burbank, California office, call us at 818-296-0925. 

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