My Pap Smear Results Were Abnormal — What Now?

A Pap smear is a regular part of a woman’s wellness exam for good reason. It gives the OB/GYN specialists at Cary OB/GYN important information about the health of your cervix and reproductive organs.

You receive a reading of a “negative” Pap smear if no traces of abnormal cells show up on your screening. However, if you have an “abnormal” result, your first reaction might be alarm. This reading, however, simply means that irregular cells were detected on your cervix and need further investigation. “Abnormal” is not a diagnosis of cervical cancer.

If you do have the presence of abnormal or irregular cells, you benefit from additional screenings and tests to determine the nature of the cells. Identification, monitoring, and removal of irregular cells can prevent more serious issues from developing, including cervical cancer. 

If you end up with abnormal Pap results, the doctors at Cary OB/GYN may recommend several courses of action.

Repeat test

Sometimes, your Pap smear comes back abnormal due to inflammation, a yeast infection, recent menses or sexual intercourse, pregnancy, or aging. If these are suspected causes, the doctors may ask you to wait a few months and repeat the Pap smear. Often, irregular cells resolve on their own.

Colposcopy

If irregular cells persist, you may undergo a colposcopy. During this minimally invasive procedure, the Cary OB/GYN team uses a device called a colposcope that’s inserted into your vagina. The colposcope magnifies the view of the cervix to help the doctors get a closer look and see what’s causing an abnormal reading on your Pap smear.

During the procedure, a light is shined into the opening of your vagina and the area is swabbed with a vinegar-like solution to make the abnormal cells stand out. The colposcope, which is like a large magnifying glass, is then inserted and the tissue evaluated.

Biopsy

Sometimes during a colposcopy, the doctors identify cells that need further analysis and take a small sample of tissue, a biopsy, to be sent to a lab. The results of the biopsy help determine whether you need additional procedures.

LEEP or cone biopsy

If precancerous cells are detected, our doctors may recommend a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP). This procedure removes cells and tissue from your cervix and vaginal area with a wire loop heated by an electric current. 

During a LEEP, the fine wire cuts away a thin layer of abnormal tissue, allowing healthy tissue to grow. This tissue may be sent in for further analysis, or the LEEP completes your treatment.

A cone biopsy involves removing a cone-shaped wedge of tissue from the cervix. This procedure is often used when abnormal tissue sits high in the cervical canal. A small amount of normal tissue that surrounds the suspicious cells is also removed to ensure these cells don’t multiply. Cone biopsies are a way to treat irregular cells and to offer a diagnosis.

You may undergo a LEEP or cone biopsy when the doctors can’t see the abnormal cells with a colposcopy. The procedures can also be used to diagnose the type of irregular cells as well as remove the abnormal tissue. If the doctor suspects cervical cancer, a cone biopsy may help determine the extent of the cancer in deciding on further treatment.

If it’s been a while since your last Pap smear, call our Cary or Morrisville office. This screening test can save your life.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Have You Considered These Family Planning Options?

Unplanned pregnancies are more common than you might think. To stay in control of your body and your health, you may be thinking about family planning and birth control. What options have you been considering? Click here to learn more.

When Should I Get My Next Pap Smear?

Thanks to advances in cancer research and testing, you no longer need an annual Pap smear. When you should get your next Pap smear depends on your age and your medical history. Click here to learn more.

Gynecological Care and COVID-19: What You Should Know

COVID-19 has affected the entire world and impacted the way people do everyday things. You know your health is important, and you may wonder how COVID-19 affects your gynecological care. Click here to find out what you should know.

Is Spotting From Birth Control Normal?

You started a new birth control and noticed spotting. Is that normal? Yes, for some forms of birth control, spotting does occur, but this side effect typically resolves within a few months. Click here to learn more.

Signs of an Ectopic Pregnancy

A missed period, nausea, and tender breasts are early signs of any pregnancy. However, if you have severe pelvic pain, spotting, or weakness, you may have an ectopic pregnancy that requires urgent medical care.

5 Questions to Ask Your Gynecologist During an Exam

It’s not unusual to feel nervous before a gynecology exam. But don’t let your nerves get in the way of receiving the care you need. Come prepared with a list of questions you want to ask your gynecologist during your exam.