What to Expect if You Have an Abnormal Pap

What to Expect if You Have an Abnormal Pap

Women from age 21-65 are encouraged to get a regular pap smear.  What is a pap smear? It is a test where your doctor will swab your cervix to look for abnormal cells.  This is usually done during a normal pelvic exam that you have at your OBGYN yearly appointment.This test can be done every three years instead of yearly unless you have a test that does not come back to normal.

After your doctor swabs your cervix usually the results come back in about a couple of days. If your doctor calls and says you have had an abnormal pap, there is no reason to panic yet. Abnormal pap does not automatically mean cervical cancer.  There are lots of reasons that can lead to an abnormal pap. What it means when your doctor says abnormal pap, means that there have been abnormal or unusual cells on your cervix. The most common reason of unusual cells are caused by HPV (human papillomavirus).  This can be either mild, moderate or severe, depending on what your doctor finds will depend on how he proceeds with treatment.

Though HPV is a common reason for abnormal cells it is not the only reason. 

ASCUS or atypical squamous cells of undetermined signature.  Squamous cells are cells that grow on the outside of a healthy cervix.  ASCUS are abnormal squamous cells, if these are found your doctor will usually follow up with an HPV test to see if the virus is found, if it is not there is no reason to worry.  

Squamous intraepithelial lesions are pre-cancerous cells. There are two types of these cells.  Low grade or high grade. Low grade cells are cells that will not likely change into cancerous cells for several years.  High grade cells are cells that are more likely to change to cancerous cells sooner.  

Atypical glandular cells are cells that produce mucus on your cervix.  If these are abnormal, your doctor will need to run more tests. 

Adenocarcinoma cells are cells that are most likely cancerous.  

Abnormal cells are just one cause of abnormal pap smear.  Other reasons can be inflammation, infection, herpes, trichomoniasis, or HPV.  Depending on the reason of the abnormal pap will depend on how your doctor proceeds with treatment.  If your doctor doesn’t believe there are any cancerous cells they may suggest repeating a pap again in a year. With no other intervention.  Other things your doctor may want to do further tests to check for HPV, a colposcopy and biopsy, a LEEP procedure, or cryosurgery. 

A colposcopy procedure is when your doctor will take a colposcope, this is like a big magnifying glass that will help your doctor see your cervix more clearly.  Your doctor will use a speculum to open up your vagina just like during a normal pelvic exam. A small light will be inserted into your cervix, that will go back to the colposcope so that your doctor can see into your cervix.  Then during this