Purpose of A Pap Smear
You probably feel scared and nervous and you’re dreading the next steps. This a normal reaction. It’s okay to be afraid of the unknown, just don’t let your imagination get the best of you. What you read online is probably way scarier than what happens next.
An abnormal Pap smear simply means you might have an infection or abnormal cells and further testing is needed to verify whether or not there is a problem.
The purpose of a Pap smear is to screen for abnormal cells that could develop into cancer. It is the best way to prevent cervical cancer, which is why it is a routine gynecological procedure.
What Does An Abnormal Pap Smear Mean?
Before jumping to any conclusions you should know that about 1 in 10 Pap tests come back abnormal and most are not serious.
- You could have an bacterial infection or inflammation
- You could have a yeast infection
- You could have Herpes
- You could have recently been sexually active
- You could have the Human Papillomavirus (60% off women carry this virus)
- You could have Trichomoniasis
- You could have abnormal cell growth or dysplasia (a precancerous condition)
*The image to the right is the Cytology smear of pleural effusion showing candidate (fungi) organism mixed with white blood cells. Fungal hyphae are present in the smear along with leukocytes and protein.
How To Read Pap Smear Results
If you are trying to read your Pap test results, deciphering all that medical lingo can be confusing. Most labs use The Bethesda System for reporting the results of a Pap. For the average person, the terms are not easy to understand.
Here’s a little guide to help you through it. First off, the term “squamous” simply refers to the cells that cover your cervix.
- Normal – Means there are no signs of cancer or precancerous cell growth
- Atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASC-US) – Changes to the cervical cells are present. This is the most common Pap test result.
- Squamous intraepithelial lesion (SIL) – Abnormal changes to the cervical cells are present and may be precancerous. Changes (SIL) can be low grade (LSIL) or high grade (HSIL). The grades are related to the levels of dysplasia. LSIL is very common and usually goes away on its own without treatment. HSIL indicates more serious changes.
- Carcinoma in situ (CIS) – A severe form of high grade changes or HSIL which is the result most likely to progress to cancer.
- Atypical squamous cells, cannot exclude HSIL (ASC-H) – Changes in the cervical cells have been found. These changes are not clearly HSIL but they could be, further testing is needed.
- Atypical glandular cells (AGC) – Cell changes are seen that suggest pre-cancer of the upper part of the cervix or uterus.
- Cancer – Abnormal cells may have spread deeper into the cervix or to other tissues.
Gynecologist Follow Up Appointment
An abnormal Pap smear indicates the presence of abnormal cells which require further evaluation before diagnosis.
If you have an abnormal Pap, your gynecologist will want to see you again for a follow-up.
During the follow-up your gynecologist will perform a minor procedure called a colposcopy and cervical biopsy. He or she will examine your cervix using a speculum or special microscope, swab your cervix with a vinegar solution to make the abnormal areas stand out. Then a small amount of tissue will be removed from your cervix, this is called a biopsy. The procedure is quick and painless. The biopsy will be sent of to a lab where a pathologist will provide you with an accurate diagnosis. If the abnormal cells are persisting, you may need further treatment to remove abnormal cell growth like cryosurgery, cone biopsy or LEEP procedure to remove the abnormal areas.
You gynecologist will discuss all of the treatment options available to you and determine the best course of action based on the results of your biopsy.
FIND A TOP10MD GYNECOLOGIST NEAR YOU
There are thousands of Gynecologists to choose from; however, not all doctors are created equal. Gynecology takes the knowledge and finesse of an experienced Gynecologist. That’s why we’ve selected your city’s best Gynecologists – to make the decision process easier for you and your family.
For your peace of mind, Top10MD Gynecologists’ credentials are validated yearly to verify medical licenses have no serious patient care sanctions, current Board Certifications in their given medical specialty, current DEA & DPS licenses, and malpractice insurance. A Top10MD has at least 5+ years experience or has performed 300+ procedures in their given specialty and a current Patient Satisfaction Score of 8.5 or higher.