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What Happens if a Pap Smear is Abnormal?

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It's natural to feel a mix of emotions if your Pap smear results show an abnormality. At Lawrence Family Practice Center in Lawrence, KS, we understand the alarm you might feel when receiving abnormal Pap smear results, and we're here to help put your worries to rest.

Typically, an abnormal Pap test result will require further diagnostic procedures such as a repeat Pap test, HPV testing, or a more detailed examination like a colposcopy to determine the cause and appropriate treatment. Let's learn more about how a Pap smear works and what you can expect if your results come back abnormal.

What is a Pap smear?

A Pap smear, also known as a Pap test, is a procedure used for cervical cancer screenings. It involves collecting cells from your cervix, the lower, narrow end of your uterus that opens into the vagina. The main goal of a Pap smear is to identify any precancerous or abnormal cells that might lead to cervical cancer. Regular Pap smears are essential because they can detect changes in the cervix before cancer develops.

What does an abnormal Pap smear mean?

An abnormal Pap smear does not necessarily mean you have cancer. In fact, most abnormal results are caused by minor infections or changes in cervical cells that may resolve on their own. However, an abnormal Pap smear indicates that some cells in the cervix did not look normal. If you do receive abnormal Pap test results, our team will work to identify the reason and develop a treatment plan (if needed) to help address the issue.

What are some things that can cause an abnormal Pap smear?

There are several factors that can lead to an abnormal Pap test result, including:

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV): This is the most frequent cause of abnormal results. Certain strains of HPV can cause changes in cervical cells.
  • Infections: Yeast or bacterial infections can also trigger abnormal findings due to the inflammation they cause.
  • Inflammation: This could be a result of conditions like vaginitis or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Hormonal changes: Changes during menopause, for example, can influence the condition of cervical cells.
  • Precancerous cells: Though less common, precancerous changes are a key reason why scheduling a regular cervical cancer screening is so important.

What are the next steps if my Pap smear is abnormal?

While abnormal results after a Pap smear can be alarming, it's important to remember that this test is only one tool used to identify cervical cancer. The next steps typically involve:

  • Repeat Pap smear: To confirm the results of your initial test.
  • HPV test: To check for the presence of the virus, as HPV is a common cause of cervical changes.
  • Colposcopy: A more detailed examination of the cervix, if repeated Pap smears show abnormal results.
  • Biopsy: Taking a small sample of cervical tissue if a colposcopy suggests more serious changes.

These additional steps will help our team diagnose your condition and recommend a treatment plan for you.

Schedule your next cervical cancer screening

At Lawrence Family Practice Center, we understand how stressful an abnormal Pap smear result can be. Our dedicated team is here to support you through every step of the follow-up process. We encourage you to contact our practice in Lawrence, KS with any concerns or questions you might have about your health. Remember, taking action is the best step you can take toward ensuring your health and well-being. If you need to discuss your Pap smear results or schedule a follow-up, please don't hesitate to reach out.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.