Getting a Pap smear is one of the most important things you can do as a woman to detect cervical cancer. If it’s been a couple of years since your last Pap smear, you should schedule one as soon as possible. If your Pap smear shows that you have precancerous cells, we can remove the cells to prevent the condition from getting worse. Early detection is the key to getting and staying healthy.
But getting the notice that your Pap smear results are abnormal can be confusing and worrisome. The doctors at The Association for Women’s Health Care can explain what the results mean and what you can do.
What abnormal Pap smear results can mean
If your Pap smear results are abnormal, that may not mean you have cancer. A Pap smear alone can’t be used to diagnose cervical cancer. However, the results may indicate that certain changes have taken place to cells in your cervix that are abnormal.
When abnormal Pap smear results are found, they often indicate that there is an infection with the human papilloma virus, or HPV. Abnormal Pap smear results can also be caused by other factors, including:
- Poor sample
- Trichomoniasis, which is a sexually transmitted disease
If the Pap smear results are abnormal, changes to the cells may be described as low grade or high grade. Low-grade changes mean that the cells look abnormal in an unidentifiable way. High-grade changes indicate that the cells may be precancerous.
Next steps after abnormal Pap smear results
In all cases, if you get an abnormal result, we’ll want to do further testing. Sometimes the next step is just repeating the Pap smear. We may also perform a HPV/Pap co-test to test for HPV.
Another common test we perform after discovering abnormal cells is a colposcopy. In this procedure, we examine your cervix, vagina, and vulva for signs of disease. If needed, we may take a tissue sample to further inspect suspicious cells.
The symptoms of cervical cancer
In many cases, cervical cancer has no symptoms. When we catch it early, we can remove the precancerous cells and stop the condition from growing.
If you do have cervical cancer, the most common symptoms usually include the following:
- Abnormal bleeding, including longer or heavier bleeding between periods, bleeding after sex, or bleeding after menopause
- Pain during sex
- Unusual discharge from your vagina
Getting a Pap smear is an important step in taking care of yourself. You can be proactive about your health, even if your results are abnormal. Treating cervical changes quickly can protect you from developing cancer. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with The Association for Women’s Health Care today.