Your annual women’s wellness exams are designed to ensure that your reproductive health is in good order, so it’s understandable that you may feel concerned if your Pap smear results are abnormal. However, abnormal results are fairly common and not necessarily cause for panic. But they do provide us with valuable information that we can act on to safeguard your health.
At Bluebonnet OB/GYN, Dr. Patricia Brougher and our team take pride in providing comprehensive gynecologic care to women in San Antonio. As part of our services, we perform an important screening called a Pap test, which allows us to check for early signs of cervical cancer.
Should your Pap test results come back with abnormal results, here’s what you need to know.
What the Pap test does
Before we get into next steps for abnormal Pap smear results, let’s quickly review why and how we perform this important test. A Pap test is designed to screen for cervical cancer. By taking a swab of your cervical cells, we can check for abnormal changes with the goal of catching any problem long before it becomes cancerous.
To give you an idea about the effectiveness of this test, cervical cancer used to pose a real threat to women and was one of the leading causes of cancer deaths. Thanks to the simple Pap test, today only a little more than 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer are reported each year in the United States. And it’s all because we are now able to intervene quickly thanks to the Pap test.
When your results are abnormal
Abnormal results from a Pap test typically stem from the presence of the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is incredibly common, affecting up to 80% of sexually active people at some point in their lives. In most cases, your body fights off the infection on its own, and there’s no need for us to intervene. In less common cases, HPV can lead to genital warts and, in even rarer cases, cervical cancer.
When we test your cervix, we’re looking for cells that show abnormal changes, which is usually caused by one of the many HPV strains. Should we detect these changes in your test, we base our next actions on the type of cells we find. If they’re low-grade or atypical, we generally take an active surveillance stance, which means we will want to test you again in six to 12 months, which gives your body plenty of time to get rid of the infection on its own.
If the cells are higher grade, we may wait another few months before we test again or perform a colposcopy, in which we remove a small piece of cervical tissue for biopsy. This more in-depth testing allows us to identify whether you may benefit from an interventional treatment to clear away the abnormal cells.
With a colposcopy, we can also identify whether any cells have turned precancerous or cancerous and take the necessary steps to rid your body of them.
Ultimately, if something abnormal is found during your Pap test, it means it has done its job in closely screening your health, which isn’t a bad thing!
If you have more questions about your Pap smear results, please give us a call at 210-686-6171.