Abnormal Pap Smears
Abnormal Pap Smears Q & A
What is a Pap smear?
A Pap test is performed during a woman’s pelvic exam. Dr. Hurst uses a tiny brush or swab to collect a small sample of cells from your cervix that are then analyzed by a lab. The test helps identify cells that may signal a sexually transmitted disease or cervical cancer.
What causes cervical cells to appear abnormal?
The chances that abnormal cervical cells indicate cervical cancer are very slight. Usually, the cells look different because you’ve been exposed to HPV, or human papillomavirus — a common sexually transmitted disease. Often, abnormal cells disappear on their own, but certain types of HPV do correlate with the development of cervical cancer.
Bacteria, yeast infections and menopause can also result in abnormal Pap smears. Infections can be treated, while the changes that occur with menopause are normal. Dr. Hurst will take into account all factors that may contribute to an abnormal smear.
Do abnormal cervical cells cause symptoms?
Most of the time, you won’t have symptoms that suggest an abnormality in your cervical cells, which is why it’s important to have Pap smears at regular visits. However, certain conditions that cause abnormal Pap smears may cause you to have:
- Burning and itching in your vaginal region
- An off-color or off-smelling discharge
- Warts and blisters around your genital area
What follow-up testing is necessary following an abnormal Pap smear?
Dr. Hurst will likely want to repeat your Pap test a few months later to see if the cells go away on their own. She may also recommend an HPV test and a colposcopy, which is a more detailed exam of your cervix. During a colposcopy, Dr. Hurst examines your cervix using a lighted magnifying tool.
How often should I have a Pap smear?
Dr. Hurst follows the guidelines outlined by the American Society of Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP) and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG.)
Women aged 21–65 should get a Pap smear at least once every 3–5 years, depending on their medical history. Your first Pap smear is recommended at age 21. If you have an abnormal test or have had one in the past, Dr. Hurst may want you to have them more frequently. Discuss with her what is right for your reproductive health.