Routine Pap smear tests help identify changes to cervical and vaginal cells. They are one of the most effective tools in diagnosing cervical cancer. While an abnormal Pap smear result doesn’t necessarily mean that you have cancer, it can be overwhelmingly and understandably nerve-wracking. Here’s what you need to know about what an abnormal Pap test result means and what to do next if your test comes back abnormal.

At Memorial Women’s Specialists in Houston, Texas, our team of gynecologists and obstetricians offer a range of women’s health and gynecology services.

What does an abnormal Pap smear mean?

An abnormal (or positive) Pap smear means that the test found abnormal cells or changes in your cervical tissue since your last exam. While that can be alarming, it doesn’t automatically mean that you have cancer. In many cases, a follow-up exam and further diagnostic tests come back normal. 

Pap smear tests are designed to look for pre-cancerous cells, so they’re a diagnostic as well as a preventive tool against cervical cancer. Cervical cancer can typically be treated successfully when caught in the early stages, so keeping up with regular well-woman exams is your best line of defense. 

At your appointment, our OB/GYN team will review your medical history and discuss your individual risk levels to determine the best screening options for you. 

A positive Pap smear can indicate HPV (human papillomavirus, which can increase the risk of cervical cancer and affect fertility), pre-cancer cells, benign polyps, and cancer. There are several follow-up options after an abnormal Pap smear depending on the type of cells indicated.

What to do if your Pap smear test is abnormal

If your Pap smear is abnormal, our team will let you know the next steps depending on the type of cells found on your test. The most common follow-up tests after an abnormal Pap smear include:

  • HPV testing
  • Colposcopy
  • Biopsy

A colposcopy is an additional diagnostic test that allows our team to take a closer look at your cervix and any abnormal tissue. The process is similar to getting your Pap smear and regular pelvic exam. Depending on your results, our team may recommend a biopsy of abnormal or suspicious tissue to rule out cancer.

Even if the results of your colposcopy and biopsy are normal and you don’t require further testing and treatment, our team may recommend scheduling another pap smear in six months just to monitor for additional changes to your cervical tissue.

For more information about abnormal Pap smear results and other women’s health issues and treatment, contact Memorial Women’s Specialists today to schedule an appointment with a gynecologist at our office in Houston, Texas.

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