If you’ve ever experienced an abnormal Pap smear, you’ve probably felt the nerves and uncertainty associated with what your results mean. Pap smears are recommended every three years to ensure you are not at risk for cervical or other cancers.
Dr. Lillian Schapiro and Dr. Kristan Adams at Ideal Gynecology can conduct regular Pap smears and discuss your test results in a clear and concise manner. Understand your risk for cervical and other cancers at Ideal Gynecology.
What is a Pap smear?
A Pap smear is a routine procedure that tests for cervical cancer in women. Pap smears are recommended for young women starting at age 21. Detecting cervical cancer early will save your health in the long run. An abnormal Pap smear is a good indicator that a more serious problem could be evident.
How a Pap smear is completed
A Pap smear involves collecting cells from your cervix. The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus, reaching all the way to the top of the vagina. A spatula and/or brush tool are used to collect cells and collect a small sample for testing.
Most women feel slight pressure during the procedure. Many experience little to no pain afterward. Once the sample is collected, it’s off to a lab for further examination.
A normal Pap smear suggests no abnormal cells were found. An abnormal Pap smear doesn’t always indicate you have cancer, but it does require a follow-up appointment and discussion of what the cause could be.
What an abnormal Pap smear means
There are varying levels of abnormal cells. On the lower end, you may have atypia cells (not very abnormal). You can range from mild to moderate-to-severe abnormal cells, known as carcinoma in situ.
There are actually lots of reasons your Pap smear may come back “abnormal.” You may have an infection or inflammation, growth or cysts, changes in your hormones (usually due to pregnancy or menopause), problems with your immune system related to diabetes, HIV, or autoimmune diseases. However, if there’s reason to believe cancer may be present, your doctor may conduct a biopsy or colposcopy.
A cervical biopsy
A biopsy requires removing a portion of the abnormal cells for further testing. A cervical biopsy may be done to find cancer or precancer cells on the cervix. Sometimes cells may appear abnormal, but not yet cancerous. These are referred to as precancerous. They are good indicators that cancer is likely to develop.
A cervical biopsy may also treat noncancerous growths, like polyps, or genital warts (often a sign of an HPV infection).
Protecting yourself and lowering your risk
Healthy sexual and vaginal health begins with you. Having regular Pap smears, limiting sexual partners, and getting regular HPV and STI testing are some of the ways you can protect yourself. No single measure can protect you from an abnormal Pap smear or even cervical cancer, but you can take small measures in your everyday life to reduce your risk.
For regular Pap smears and preventive care, chat with the specialists at Ideal Gynecology. Book online, or call for your first appointment today.