After waiting for your Pap smear results, you may be feeling a little on edge if your results come back abnormal. But an abnormal Pap smear doesn’t mean you have cervical cancer. When your results are atypical, Sonia Enriquez, MD, at Lake Mary Gynecology in Lake Mary, Florida, has you return to the office for additional testing and a discussion about your next steps. For patient-focused gynecology care, call the office or book an appointment online today.
A Pap smear is a gynecological screening test for cervical cancer. During the routine test, Dr. Enriquez gently collects a sample of cells from your cervix and sends it out to a lab for testing. Finding cervical cancer during the early stages increases your chances of a full recovery.
Women should start Pap smears at age 21 and repeat the screening every three years up through age 65. After Dr. Enriquez collects the sample of cells, it takes two to three weeks to get results. In most patients, Pap smear results are normal.
Cervical cancer may be the first thing that pops into your mind when your Pap smear results are abnormal. But that’s not what your test results mean. An abnormal Pap smear means the lab found atypical cells, such as:
Squamous cells are the cells that grow on the surface of your cervix. If your lab test indicates you have ASCUS, it means your cells are abnormal, but not necessarily cancerous or precancerous.
With ASCUS, Dr. Enriquez may perform additional testing to look for human papillomavirus (HPV). Certain strains of HPV, a sexually transmitted disease (STD), increase your risk of developing cervical cancer.
If your abnormal test results indicate you have squamous intraepithelial lesions, then you may have precancerous cells.
The glandular cells in your cervix produce mucus. Atypical glandular cells means these cells are abnormal, but not precancerous.
If your abnormal Pap smear results indicate you have squamous cell cancer, then it’s likely you have cancerous cells.
Though your abnormal Pap smear may provide valuable clues, Dr. Enriquez has you return to the office so she can perform a colposcopy to gather more information.
During a colposcopy, Dr. Enriquez closely evaluates your cervical tissue using a colposcope — a magnifying instrument. She then takes a biopsy of any abnormal tissue for further testing and uses the results of your biopsy to determine the next steps.
If your cervical cell changes are mild, Dr. Enriquez may recommend more frequent Pap smears. For moderate changes, she may perform a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) or cone biopsy.
An abnormal Pap smear may be unsettling, but you usually need additional testing to find out what’s going on. For expert gynecology care, call Lake Mary Gynecology or book an appointment using this website’s online scheduling tool.