It’s understandable to find abnormal Pap smear results frightening. However, this important part of a well woman exam is simply a screening to watch for abnormal changes in cervical tissue.
The cervix is part of the female reproductive system and sits at the top of the vaginal canal. This area is vulnerable to cancer, especially if you have untreated human papillomavirus, or HPV, a sexually transmitted disease.
A Pap smear looks for abnormal cells in cervical tissue that could indicate a risk of cancer. Our team at Eve Medical of Miami performs this test routinely during a pelvic exam. We can also add a screening for HPV to your Pap smear test to diagnose the condition right away and begin treatment as soon as possible, if needed. This can help reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer.
We recommend Pap smears and HPV testing for people with female reproductive systems, even if they don’t identify as women. These screenings should occur every three years between ages 21-65. However, we may suggest more frequent screenings based on your individual risks.
What to expect after your Pap smear
After we perform your Pap test, we send your sample to a lab for analysis. They examine it for signs of normal (negative), unclear, or abnormal cells.
If your test results are normal, you don't require further treatment until your next scheduled Pap smear, usually about three years after your last one.
Unclear or abnormal results
If your test returns with an unclear or abnormal result, it can indicate several things. But rest easy: It doesn’t mean that you have or will have cancer. Instead, it’s the first step to identifying any potential cervical issues requiring prompt treatment.
It takes anywhere from 1-3 weeks to receive your Pap results. We understand that these results can be confusing and even frightening, so don’t hesitate to reach out to our team immediately if you need help interpreting your results.
What an abnormal Pap smear means
First, take a deep breath. Pap smears aren’t always 100% accurate, and you can have an abnormal Pap smear for numerous reasons, such as:
- Age-related cell changes
- Hormonal fluctuations, like menopause
- A yeast infection or vaginal inflammation
- Chronic conditions, like autoimmune diseases or diabetes
- Noncancerous benign cysts
They can also indicate cell changes in your cervix from HPV or precancerous cervical cells. In rare cases, an abnormal Pap test can reveal cervical cancer. However, the likelihood you have cervical cancer is quite low.
Because several factors can lead to an abnormal Pap result, we always recommend additional testing to identify the cause.
I had an abnormal Pap smear. Now what?
If you had an unclear Pap or results that showed small abnormal changes, we typically start by repeating your test. When you have more significant abnormalities — or your second test shows more serious changes — we could recommend more powerful tests, such as:
- Colposcopy, which looks closely at your vagina and cervix for precancerous or cancerous cells
- Endocervical curettage, which removes a cell sample from the endocervical canal
- Biopsy, which involves taking a cervical tissue sample to review under a microscope
Based on these tests, we can determine the best treatment strategy. In some cases, this simply involves close observation because unhealthy cells often go away on their own.
Additionally, when you have an abnormal Pap result, we often recommend careful monitoring to prevent cancerous growth in your cervix. This strategy could involve increasing the frequency of your Pap tests so we can monitor your cervical cells more closely.
If you need a Pap smear, or if you’re concerned about your risk of cervical cancer, contact Eve Medical of Miami today. Our compassionate and skilled team can support you through every step of the testing, diagnosis, and treatment process. To schedule your appointment, call our office in Miami, Florida, at 305-707-6096 or request a visit online.