Pap smears, also called Pap tests, are a special medical screening that looks for cervical changes that could turn into cancer. Your cervix is the lowest part of your uterus, and it’s directly above your vagina. If you get a test and the results are abnormal — or positive — that doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer.
At Holistic OB/GYN & Midwifery, our experienced team understands it can be scary to get a positive Pap smear. But if you get one, we can answer all your questions and guide you through the next steps.
Having a positive Pap smear rarely means you have cancer. It simply means we found unusual cells on your cervix.
One of the most common causes of positive Pap tests is cervical changes due to the human papillomavirus, or HPV. This common sexually transmitted disease can increase your chances of developing cervical cancer in the future. Fortunately, having regular Pap smears can detect cervical changes early, so we can address them before they become serious or life-threatening.
Other causes of abnormal Pap tests include:
You can also get a “false positive” result. To help avoid this, you should stop doing certain things a few days prior to your test. This would include using tampons as well as vaginal or menstrual products, such as creams, suppositories, and sprays. You should also avoid sexual intercourse.
If you have an abnormal Pap smear, your results are categorized as either low-grade or high-grade. If you have low-grade results, then a slight abnormality has been found in some of your cells. If your results are high-grade, then some of your cells have been found to be much more abnormal, meaning they could develop into cancer. We use these findings to determine how to move forward. The next steps could include the following:
In some cases, we just repeat your Pap smear to retest your cervical cells. We might also recommend a Pap with HPV testing so we can confirm the presence of an HPV infection.
We might recommend a colposcopy to do a more conclusive analysis of your cervix. During this procedure, we use a special microscope to carefully inspect your cervix. This approach can help us differentiate normal areas from abnormal areas. We can also remove tissue samples during a biopsy for additional testing.
Depending on the abnormal cells present, we might recommend removing them to prevent cervical cancer from developing. Two common techniques for eliminating abnormal cervical cells are cryosurgery, which freezes them and loop electrosurgical excision (LEEP). During a LEEP, a small wire loop charged with an electrical current to remove the abnormal cells.
If your biopsy results confirm cancer, we will work closely with you to outline a treatment strategy via our collaborative physician Dr. Charles G. Haddad, FACOG.
We recommend women get screened starting at age 30. But, we might offer different guidelines based on your personal risks. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO), the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American Cancer Society (ACS), American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP), and American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), recommends against screening for cervical cancer with HPV testing, alone or in combination with cyntology in women younger than 30 years old. So age is a huge factor according to recommendations and how often to screen.
For more information on Pap smears and abnormal results, book an appointment online or over the phone with Holistic OB/GYN & Midwifery today.