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Why Did I Get an Abnormal Pap Smear?

Why Did I Get an Abnormal Pap Smear?

Most women know Pap smears, or Pap tests, are used to detect cervical cancer, one of the most common causes of cancer deaths among women. But what many women don’t know is that abnormal Pap smear results don’t necessarily mean you have cancer — and in fact, in most cases, the cause of your abnormal result is completely benign.

In Newburgh, Indiana, Paul W. Morrison, M.D., relies on Pap smears to help his patients stay healthy. In this post, Dr. Morrison reviews some of the common causes of abnormal Pap smear results and what happens next if your test results are abnormal.

What to know about abnormal Pap smear results

A Pap smear is a screening tool designed to look for unusual changes in the cells that line your cervix — the opening of your uterus. The smear uses a special tool to gently and painlessly collect a sample of cells so they can be evaluated in a lab.

Although Pap smears play a critically important role in the early detection of cervical cancer, noncancerous issues can also cause abnormal results. In fact, in most cases, abnormal results aren’t caused by cancer at all.

Instead, an abnormal Pap smear result can be caused by infections such as human papillomavirus (HPV) or yeast infections, hormonal changes, or benign growths. If you’ve recently douched or had sex, that can influence your results, too. In any event, an abnormal result should always be followed up with additional testing to find the cause.

Follow-up testing with colposcopy

If you have an abnormal Pap smear result, Dr. Morrison may perform another Pap smear to verify the results. But often, he recommends a different type of test called a colposcopy for more definitive results.

Colposcopy begins like a regular pelvic exam, but after the speculum is inserted, Dr. Morrison uses a special instrument with a bright light and a magnifier to evaluate your cervix and vaginal canal. This instrument — called a colposcope — remains on the outside of your body.

Colposcopy enables Dr. Morrison to clearly identify areas of abnormal tissue that could be responsible for your abnormal Pap smear results. Once that tissue is identified, Dr. Morrison takes tiny samples — biopsies — for further lab evaluation.

Next steps

Colposcopy results typically are available within a week or two. Depending on the outcome of your test, Dr. Morrison maps out a treatment plan that could include “watching and waiting” for an HPV infection or more aggressive treatments for cancerous or precancerous cells.

Having routine Pap smears is one of the quickest and smartest things you can do to protect your health. Most women between 21-65 should have a Pap smear every three years, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

If you’re due for a Pap smear, don’t delay. Call 812-490-5200 or book an appointment online with the practice of Paul W. Morrison, M.D., today.

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