Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer for women. But when it’s detected early, it’s also one of the most treatable forms. The only way to test for cervical cancer is a Pap smear, a routine test that takes a small sample of cells from the cervix.
Your Pap smear is a part of your well-woman exam. Generally, women between the ages of 21 and 30 should get a Pap smear once every three years. Women over 30 may only need a Pap smear every five years, while women over 65 may not need to continue getting Pap smears.
When Pap results come back normal, you don’t need to get any more testing until it’s time for your next Pap smear. But, sometimes, Pap test results come back abnormal. When that happens, it means that abnormal cells were discovered during your screening.
If your Pap results are abnormal, you need to get additional testing to determine the cause. For comprehensive well-woman exams and compassionate care for abnormal Pap results and more, Bharat Gandhi, MD and Priya Gandhi, MD MPH and our team at Medinet Family Care Clinic will help you through the experience, in our Houston or Sugar Land, Texas offices.
A Pap test involves taking a small sample of cells from the outside of your cervix and examining them to check for cancer. When you get a Pap test, our team uses a speculum and a soft brush or stick to collect cells.
After we take a sample of cells, it’s sent to a lab. The cells are examined under a microscope and the lab technicians look for signs of precancer or cancer.
The most common cause of abnormal results is HPV, or human papillomavirus. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that about 80% of women will get during their lifetime, and it often has no symptoms. It is also a leading cause of cervical cancer. In some cases, other underlying issues can lead to abnormal Pap results. They include:
Pap smears aren’t always 100% accurate. In some cases, abnormal cells may be detected when there are none, or you could get normal results when abnormal cells are present. Getting regular testing is the best way to make sure cervical cancer is detected as early as possible.
It’s important to remember that getting abnormal Pap smear results doesn’t automatically mean that you have cervical cancer. What happens after your results come in depends on your medical history, risk factors, and Pap smear results in the past. If your risk of developing cervical cancer is low, or if you haven’t had abnormal Pap results in the past, we may recommend a follow-up Pap test in six months to a year.
If you’ve had abnormal results previously, or if you have other risk factors for cervical cancer, follow-up treatments are focused on evaluating the abnormal cells to confirm a diagnosis. We may perform a colposcopy to examine the tissue in your cervix, as well as in your vagina and vulva.
After the colposcopy, we make take a small tissue sample, or biopsy, from any suspicious areas. The biopsy is sent to a lab for analysis to determine if cancer is present. Following additional testing, our team works with you to determine the best course of treatment to keep you healthy.
If you’ve received abnormal Pap test results and want to know what to do, don’t hesitate to make an appointment at one of our offices. Call us or book online today.