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I've Had Abnormal Pap Smear Results: Now What?

I've Had Abnormal Pap Smear Results: Now What?

 Pelvic exams play an essential role in women’s healthcare, which often means getting a Pap smear, too. Taking just a few moments to perform, the Pap smear is the leading screening tool for cervical cancer, the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths among women. 

Getting an abnormal result on your Pap smear can be more than a little alarming. But the good news is, most abnormal results aren’t associated with cancer but with benign causes, like yeast infections or hormonal fluctuations.

At Desert Star Family Planning, DeShawn Taylor, MD, MSc, FACOG, helps women in Phoenix, Arizona, understand the cause of their abnormal Pap smears, providing additional testing to ensure every patient gets the most appropriate care. In this post, learn what happens if your Pap smear results are abnormal. 

Pap smears: The basics

Most commonly performed during a regular pelvic exam, a Pap smear takes less than a minute and is completely painless. Once you’re in the stirrups and the speculum is inserted, Dr. Taylor uses a long-handled swab or brush to gently swab the cervix (the opening of your uterus), collecting a sample of cells. 

These cells are examined under a microscope to look for abnormal changes that might be associated with cancer. Dr. Taylor will receive the results in about a week, after which the office will pass along those results to you.

It’s important to note that while a Pap smear is often referred to as a Pap test, it’s not a test. Instead, it’s a screening tool that looks for potential signs of cancer without providing a diagnosis. 

Having a Pap smear regularly is one of the best things you can do for your health. In fact, by identifying abnormal cells early, those cells can be removed so they never have a chance to develop into cancer.

Abnormal results: the next step

If your results are abnormal, don’t assume that means you have cancer. As noted earlier, plenty of other issues can cause an abnormal result. 

Typically, Dr. Taylor may order an additional Pap smear to “recheck” those results, or she may decide to perform a colposcopy. This simple exam uses a special solution to highlight abnormal cells on your cervix and a lighted scope called a colposcope to make it easier to see them.

If Dr. Taylor sees abnormal cells during a colposcopy, she’ll take one or more small tissue samples during your exam. Those samples are sent to a lab where they’re evaluated under a microscope, just like the sample from your Pap test. 

In other cases, Dr. Taylor orders a transvaginal ultrasound to evaluate your uterus and ovaries. This diagnostic imaging exam can be helpful for women with other symptoms, like abnormal vaginal bleeding.

Schedule your Pap smear today

The CDC recommends a Pap smear every three years for women between the ages of 20-65 or every five years if you have a combined Pap smear and HPV test. If your results are abnormal, Dr. Taylor may recommend more frequent testing. 

A Pap smear may not be anyone’s idea of a good time, but it only takes a few moments and can provide a lifetime of protection. To schedule your Pap smear or find out more about abnormal results, call 480-447-8857 or book an appointment online with Dr. Taylor and the Desert Star Family Planning team today.

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