A Pap smear – sometimes called a Pap test – is a quick and painless test designed to screen for signs of cervical cancer and precancerous changes to the cervix. Since Pap smears have become a routine part of women’s wellness exams, both the number of cervical cancer diagnoses and death rates have decreased by more than 60%, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Because Pap smears play a big role in detecting and preventing cervical cancer, it’s important to stay current with your Pap tests. Early detection of precancerous changes and prompt follow-ups can potentially stop cervical cancer before it even begins. That’s why our health care professionals at DOCCS recommend you come in to see us as soon as you receive an abnormal result.
Our physicians at DOCCS are happy to explain the common causes of abnormal Pap smear results and the possible next steps if you have an abnormal test.
What happens after you receive an abnormal result?
If your Pap smear results were abnormal, it’s important to remember that abnormal doesn’t necessarily mean cancer. There are many conditions that can trigger an abnormal result, which is why it’s important for us to follow up and determine the cause of the abnormal result.
There are many noncancer-related reasons why your results may be listed as abnormal. For example, even having intercourse within 48 hours prior to your test can affect your results.
Decoding abnormal Pap smear results
Abnormal results are often triggered by one of three things: inflammation, HPV infections, or precancerous cells. What we suggest next depends on what type of cellular changes were noted on your Pap test.
Regardless of what causes the abnormal cervical cells, most abnormal results are classified as one of the four following cellular changes:
- Atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS): ASCUS can be caused by vaginal infections, including yeast infections. Using new condoms, impending menstruation, and HPV infections can also trigger this result. ASCUS is the most common reason for an abnormal test result.
- Low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (LSIL): If your Pap test detected an LSIL, we may suggest an HPV test to rule out or confirm an HPV infection. We may also suggest follow-up for a colposcopy, a test that provides a magnified view of the cervix.
- High-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (HSIL): If your Pap detected an HSIL, there is the likelihood that precancerous cells were detected. Often, the next step is a colposcopy and/or biopsy.
- Atypical glandular cells (AGC): Detection of atypical glandular cells means that changes have been detected in another type of cell -- the glandular cells.
Keeping your follow-up appointments
Although it can be unnerving to receive unexpected test results, attending your follow-up appointments ensures that you receive the care you need. At DOCCS, we can treat underlying infections as well as recommend the appropriate follow-up actions in compliance with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists such as:
- Repeating the Pap smear and/or HPV test
- Scheduling a colposcopy and/or biopsy
At DOCCS, we’re happy to provide women’s healthcare services (including Pap smears), and should you receive an abnormal result, we’re here to guide you with your next steps. Request an appointment at our office in Melbourne, Florida, by calling 321-752-7100 or try our convenient online booking tool.