You had your routine Pap smear (good for you), and the results showed abnormalities. So, now what? First of all, there’s no need to panic. Chances are, you’ll be just fine, as long as you follow through with your doctor’s recommendations. Depending on the specifics of your Pap test results, your doctor may recommend one of several options, from simple monitoring to additional tests.
Here at Grassroots Healthcare in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Dr. Melita Tate offers full-service women’s health examinations, which include Pap smears. Read on to learn more about what to expect after you receive an abnormal Pap smear result.
It can feel scary to get abnormal results from the test used to screen for cervical cancer. However, that doesn’t actually mean you have cancer. An abnormal Pap smear just means that some of your cervical cells are not typical. Most likely, any abnormalities were caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) — the most common sexually transmitted disease, which most adults acquire at some point.
Depending on the type of abnormal cells shown in your Pap smear results, your provider may recommend additional tests. If the cells appear to be related to HPV, you might need a colposcopy, which is a test that provides a magnified view of your cervix, vulva, and vagina for closer inspection. A colposcopy can detect precancerous lesions, meaning it can help stop cancer before it starts. A repeat Pap test might be in order if you had an infection at the time of your first Pap smear or if too few cells were collected then.
If your colposcopy came back showing only low-grade changes in your cervical cells, your provider will likely recommend the “watch and wait” approach. In other words, you’ll simply have more frequent Pap smears, such as one per year, versus one every three years. In many cases, the abnormalities correct themselves over time.
If your colposcopy results showed moderate to severe cervical cell abnormalities, or if your doctor has other reasons to suspect cancer, they’ll likely order a biopsy. During this process, cervical tissue will be removed using Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure or a cold knife cone biopsy. Both of these procedures are minor surgeries. From there, your doctor can assess whether you have cancerous cells and recommend any necessary treatment. With early detection, cervical cancer is highly treatable.
To learn more about your cervical cancer risks or schedule a Pap smear, call Grassroots Healthcare or book an appointment with Dr. Melita Tate online.