Are your Pap smear results stressing you out? Although a Pap smear test is the best way to look for abnormalities that could indicate cervical cancer, pre-cancerous and cancerous cells are rarely found.
A Pap smear can detect many abnormalities, including local inflammation and a few sexually transmitted diseases (chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and HPV).
However, even if your Pap smear did detect cells that resemble precancerous or cancerous cells, only a biopsy can determine if something serious is going on.
Also, if you used tampons or creams or had intimate relations two days before the testing, this could affect the test results as well.
So what can you do next? Dr. Lyndon Taylor explains what steps you should take depending on what caused the abnormalities in your Pap smear results.
Atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS) are the most common cause of Pap smear abnormalities. These abnormal-looking cells can be caused by anything from infections and bacteria to a reaction to your washing detergent.
Another cause for these cells is an HPV infection. Dr. Taylor may recommend another Pap smear test to determine the cause.
If your Pap smear shows low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (LSIL), you may have HPV, a virus known to cause many cases of cervical cancer.
Don’t panic yet, because only a few strains of HPV cause cancerous cells to grow, and the vast majority of women clear up the infection on their own without any treatment. However, HPV testing is necessary to identify which strain caused the infection.
Precancerous cells can take years to develop into cancerous cells, and only a biopsy can confirm or rule out cancer.
Pap smears help detect abnormalities, but they’re rarely used as diagnostic tools. If your doctor suspects precancerous or cancerous cells, they’ll recommend a colposcopy.
During a colposcopy, a specialist uses a colposcope, which is a microscope that doesn’t touch you, to look for abnormal growths. If the acetic acid solution applied to your cervix reveals abnormal growths, the doctor will take a sample of your cells and send it to a lab for further testing.
In many cases, abnormalities found in Pap smear results are mild. Only further testing can determine if your abnormalities are because of a more serious condition.
If you're losing sleep over your Pap smear results, don’t delay scheduling an appointment at one of our offices in Oak Park, Illinois, or North Riverside, Illinois.