Abnormal Pap Smears Q & A
What does it mean when my pap smear is abnormal?
When pap smear results come back as abnormal, it typically means that the cells harvested have exhibited some unusual changes. These unusual changes could be the result of a disease, a medical condition, or cancer.
What is a colposcopy exam?
If you have abnormal Pap smear results or HPV test, the doctor may recommend a colposcopy exam to identify abnormal cells on your cervix. Identifying these abnormal cells early on is essential since they may be a sign of inflammation or pre-cancerous changes that could develop into cervical cancer if left untreated. The colposcopy exam puts many women at ease after having an abnormal pap smear since they’re able to watch the exam as it’s happening and discuss the results immediately with their physician.
What causes cells to appear abnormal?
Cells obtained from the cervix can be affected by some conditions and illnesses. Abnormal results will usually fall into three groupings: irritated or irregular, precancerous, and cancerous. Irritated or irregular cells can be caused by swelling associated with an infection or hyperkeratosis, a condition where dried skin cells are present at the cervix. This is typical because the woman has used a cervical cap or diaphragm. Precancerous cells are those that appear to be in the preliminary stages just prior to malignancy, meaning they may become cancerous. These cells, as well as those which are irritated, will require further testing. When cancerous cells are found, treatment or procedure to assess and/or remove, the cells will need to be performed. This is usually done shortly after the results have been evaluated.
What treatments are used for abnormal cells?
Treatments used by the doctor will be tailored to fit the needs of each patient. If an infection or aggravation is causing the problem, the doctor will usually write a prescription for antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, or another form of prescription medication such as an antifungal. If the cells are precancerous, the doctor will want to evaluate the cells and in some instances perform a biopsy. If a biopsy reveals cancerous cells or if cancerous cells were found during the initial exam, the gynecologist will typically recommend that the tissue is removed. Removing the tissue can be achieved through a surgical operation. If the cancerous tissue is vast, more invasive surgeries could be required. The gynecologist will discuss all of the options, alternative treatments available, risks, and benefits with the patient to make sure that the best solution is chosen.