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Understanding What An Abnormal Pap Smear Means

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Getting pap smears regularly is a great preventative step to take as a woman, but sometimes the results can be a little frightening. If your doctor calls and says the test can back with abnormal results, you may be afraid of what this means. While it can be sign of cancer, abnormal pap smears are usually nothing serious.

What does a pap smear show?

When your doctor completes a pap smear, he or she is basically looking at the cells and tissue found on your cervix. This is done as a way to detect cervical cancer at an early stage, and it is detected through abnormal cell growth.

Abnormal cell growth, however, does not automatically indicate cancer. Abnormal cell growth can occur for a number of reasons, but doctors always want to investigate it further when it is detected.

What causes abnormal cells on the cervix?

Abnormal cells can appear if you have cancer, but they can also indicate other issues, such as:

Doctors are often able to determine the cause of an abnormal pap test by viewing the way the cells look. Each cause of abnormal cells create different looks to the cells, and this is primarily what the doctor will look at when determining what to do next.

What is the next step after abnormal results?

There are times when doctors decide not to take any further steps after an abnormal pap test, except they may want to perform additional pap tests over the next year or two. These are done simply to see if the cells change any more.

Other times, doctors will recommend biopsies. A biopsy is used to remove a larger sample of tissue from the location where the abnormal cells were discovered. This sample is sent to a lab for further testing.

Getting a biopsy is something your gynecologist (like Patricia A. Giuffre, MD) can typically do in the office. It can be slightly painful, but it is usually fairly quick. Once the lab examines the cells, they will send a report back to your doctor about their findings.

Your chances of getting diagnosed with cervical cancer are very low, so you should not get too worried after receiving the results of an abnormal pap smear. There are around 140 million women and girls in the U.S. right now, and only 12,900 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year.

If you have not had a pap smear done recently, you may want to consider scheduling an appointment. A gynecologist can help you detect problems early on and can help you find ways to stay healthier. Call today to schedule an appointment.