During your yearly pelvic exam, you may receive a test known as a Pap smear. This is a test that looks for abnormal cells in your cervix, which is the opening to your uterus.
Usually, a Pap smear shows nothing worrisome. But sometimes, results are abnormal. What happens then?
Here at Associates in Women’s Health in Cincinnati, we know that abnormal findings from a Pap smear can be upsetting. However, many women get abnormal results. Even when cervical cells show some changes, they usually aren’t cancerous.
Read on to learn about what we recommend for women with abnormal Pap smear results.
Checking for cervical cancer
In the past, cervical cancer was one of the most common causes of cancer death in women in the US. But today, thanks in large part to the Pap smear, cervical cancer is usually always caught early, when it’s easier to treat and cure.
Now, cervical cancer kills relatively few women. In 2019, only about 4,250 women in the US will die from cervical cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
Fortunately, a Pap smear can often catch changes in cervical cells years before they would become cancerous.
If you have abnormal results from your Pap smear, additional testing can provide more information about what’s going on with those cells.
For example, testing can determine whether changes to your cervical cells are high-grade or low-grade. High-grade changes are more likely to develop into cervical cancer.
To learn more about the abnormalities in your cells, one of the following tests may be performed:
During this test, your provider removes a very small sample of cervical tissue and examines it under a microscope to determine the extent of cellular changes.
A colposcopy is an in-office procedure that gives your provider a closer look at the tissue in your cervix, vulva, or vagina. It uses an instrument called a colposcope, which magnifies images of your tissue.
Will you need treatment?
Whether your abnormal cervical cells need treatment depends on what kinds of changes they’ve undergone.
Low-grade cervical cell changes often return to normal on their own. To keep an eye on them over time, your provider may recommend more frequent Pap smears.
If follow-up testing finds that the abnormal cells show high-grade changes, you may require treatment to remove abnormal cells. Taking these cells out of your cervix can help prevent cervical cancer from developing in the future.
Abnormal cervical cells can be removed with a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP), which uses a small electrical wire loop to remove cells.
Take care of your cervical health
Be sure you’re getting regular pelvic exams and Pap smears. Call our office to schedule a visit, or request an appointment today.