A Pap smear is an effective way to identify warning signs of underlying gynecological issues, including cancer, before you have symptoms. But, learning your test results are abnormal can be scary, especially if you’re not sure what they mean.
At The Guirguis Obstetrics & Gynecology Group, we offer Pap smears and other preventive wellness services for women to support their long-term health. Our skilled team of OB/GYNs also have extensive experience in managing conditions that preventive testing can identify.
If you have concerns about abnormal Pap smear results, you can rely on our providers to guide you through the next steps.
Purpose of a Pap smear
A Pap smear is a minimally invasive procedure to collect cells from your cervix. Our physicians swab your cervix during a pelvic exam and evaluate the cell sample under a microscope to check for precancerous tissue changes, cancerous cells, and other abnormalities.
Early identification of precancerous changes or cancer cells can help you get treatment as early as possible. For this reason, you should schedule routine Pap smears as part of your preventive health care plan.
However, abnormal Pap smear results don’t guarantee you have cancer. There are several reasons why your results may come back as abnormal.
Potential causes of abnormal Pap smear results
While it’s true that a Pap smear is primarily a preventive cancer screening, this test can also come back as abnormal if it potentially detects another condition, such as the following:
Cervical dysplasia describes precancerous or other abnormal changes in the cervical cells. These cell changes don’t mean you have cancer, but they can be an indication that you have an increased risk for the disease.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a viral infection and a common sexually transmitted disease (STD). The infection can spread through oral, vaginal, and anal sex and may increase your risk for cervical cancer.
Trichomoniasis and other vaginal infections
A Pap smear can detect trichomoniasis, which is another type of STD, and other types of vaginal infections that can cause vaginal itching and foul-smelling discharge.
Other reasons why your Pap smear may be abnormal
A Pap smear can also come back as abnormal for nonmedical reasons. For example, if your period ended or is about to start, a Pap smear may identify cervical changes that normally occur with menstruation.
Before we give you a Pap smear, our physicians provide guidance you should follow to prepare for your test, such as not using tampons, avoiding sexual intercourse, and not taking a bath. While these activities may seem harmless, they can actually affect the results of your Pap smear.
The next step after receiving an abnormal Pap smear may be to undergo another Pap smear to rule out lab errors. Our OB/GYNs can also perform a colposcopy to check your cervix for suspicious tissue. If there are abnormalities present, we may need to take a tissue sample to confirm a diagnosis.
If your Pap smear reveals an infection, cancer, or another condition, our providers will meet with you to discuss your results. We’ll also provide information about your treatment options.
To schedule a Pap smear or see our providers about any other gynecological needs, book an appointment online or over the phone with The Guirguis Obstetrics & Gynecology Group today.