Pap smears are a screening tool used by gynecologists to detect abnormal cells growing on the cervix. A doctor will collect a sample from the cervix wall to test for any abnormalities. Pap smear tests are a crucial component in detecting cervical cancer and other reproductive-related diseases. About two weeks after the procedure, your doctor will have your results. Ideally, the test comes back negative, however, it is not uncommon for women to receive positive test results indicating an abnormality. To help understand a little more about the process, here are 4 things to know if your Pap smear is abnormal.
Understanding Your Results
If your Pap smear test results come back positive, it means your doctor found unusual cells on your cervix. While many women might panic at the thought of testing positive, there are many reasons this can happen that do not necessarily mean you have cervix cancer. Most often, the abnormal test result means there have been cell changes caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). When HPV causes abnormal cell changes on the cervix and this is called cervical dysplasia, which if left unattended, may lead to cancer.
Causes of an Abnormal Pap Test
In addition to HPV, some activities or physical conditions can result in an abnormal Pap test. To prevent false abnormal test results, doctors have agreed on a suggested list of things to avoid when scheduling your Pap smear. While no real preparation is necessary, it is best if you schedule your exam between periods. Having recently menstruated or beginning your cycle soon can potentially influence positive results. In addition, avoid things such as tampons, vaginal cream, smoking, and intercourse for at least two days before your scheduled test. In some instances, cell changes are caused by other infections and conditions. These include yeast infections, bacterial infection, herpes, inflammation, or trichomoniasis.
Abnormal Pap Smear Symptoms
Most changes in cells which cause an abnormal Pap smear do not cause symptoms, such as HPV. However, other STIs can cause irritating symptoms. Itching, pain, or burning in your pelvic area during sex or urination, off-colored vaginal discharge, lumps, sores, or rashes around your genitals are all symptoms you should inform your doctor of.
If your Pap smear test comes back abnormal, your doctor may suggest scheduling a follow-up test to see if there is a recurrence of abnormal cells or HPV. Another small biopsy will be taken to be used in comparison with your first results. If your doctor has reason to believe something may not be quite right with your cervix, he or she may recommend additional testing such as a colposcopy. A colposcopy is an examination of the vagina, cervix, and vulva with a magnified view to locate and determine the extent of abnormal cells.
If not done already, your doctor may recommend testing you for HPV. Testing for HPV every 3 years is recommended as certain types of HPV, including types 16 and 18, increase your risk of cervical cancer. Knowing whether you have a type of HPV that puts you at high risk of cervical cancer means that you and your doctor can better decide on the next steps in your health care. Those steps might include follow-up monitoring, further testing, or treatment of abnormal or precancerous cells.
Pap Smear Exams in New Jersey
If you are looking to schedule a Pap smear exam with a board certified OB/GYN in Livingston, NJ, then look no further! At Anthony C. Quartell, MD. and Associates, Dr. Quartell and his staff have been treating patients for over 40 years in the field. For more information about Pap smears or additional services we provide, be sure to contact us today to schedule your appointment!