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Does an Abnormal Pap Smear Mean Cancer?

No one looks forward to a pelvic exam or a Pap test. However, screenings can save your life. It’s important to understand why you should have regular Pap tests, as well as what the results mean.

The providers at Advanced Women’s Healthcare understand that no one wants to have a Pap test, as well as the stress and worry that an abnormal result can cause. Before we go any further, we’d like you to know that an abnormal Pap smear result doesn’t automatically mean you have cancer. 

Pap smears are important tests

Sometimes a Pap test is called cervical cancer screening. That’s because that’s exactly what the test is — it determines whether you have abnormal cell growth that could become cancer on your cervix. The test looks for precancers, which is why an abnormal result doesn’t indicate cancer. 

Potential results

When you have a Pap smear, your test results can come back normal, unclear or inconclusive, or abnormal. Most tests come back normal, but a significant portion come back as unclear, which could be called inconclusive or ASC-US. 

Unclear results could mean that you have some cells that don’t look quite like they should, but can’t be classified as abnormal. It could also mean that your sample wasn’t good, possibly because you had intercourse or used a tampon prior to the test. 

Cervical dysplasia

When you have abnormal cell growth on your cervix, you have cervical dysplasia. Other terms are carcinoma in situ or precancer, which are both somewhat scary-sounding names. There are several possible causes of cervical dysplasia, including: 

For many women, an abnormal Pap smear result is related to one of those underlying causes. There are other possibilities, as well. For example, use of tampons, sexual intercourse, and products like douches or vaginal suppositories can lead to inaccurate results.

After getting abnormal results

If your results were unclear or abnormal, your doctor may suggest repeating the test. They may also suggest additional tests. A colposcopy is often the next step. During a colposcopy, your doctor looks at your cervix using a microscope and may decide to remove a small amount of abnormal tissue for additional analysis. 

Depending on your situation and the results of any further tests, your doctor may advise removing the abnormal cells so that they can’t continue developing and potentially become cancerous. Cryosurgery is a method of destroying the cells by freezing them, and loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) is another way of destroying those potentially dangerous cells.

If you do have cancer

It’s possible that further testing following abnormal Pap smear results will reveal that you do have cancer. If that turns out to be the case, the best treatment will depend on many factors, including the stage of the cancer among others. 

One of the reasons it’s so important to have regular Pap tests is that early detection of cervical cancer vastly improves outcomes. Schedule your appointment today to have this life-saving screening. Simply call 309-808-3068, and we’ll get you scheduled.

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