During your annual gynecology exam, you may receive a Pap test, also known as a Pap smear. A Pap test is a screening exam that looks for the presence of abnormal cells in your cervix that could be associated with cervical cancer.
Chances are, your Pap test results will be normal. For most women, they usually are. But if your test is one of the small percentage that comes back abnormal, don’t panic. Even though we use the Pap test to look for cervical cancer, that doesn’t mean you have cervical cancer if your test results are abnormal. But it typically does mean you need to have follow-up testing.
Here at Virtuosa GYN in San Antonio, Texas, we take your cervical health very seriously. Our care providers would like to share some important information with you about what comes next if you receive abnormal Pap test results.
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the cervix, which is located between your uterus and your vagina. In 2019, about 13,170 women in the United States received a cervical cancer diagnosis.
Fortunately, the number of cervical cancer cases and deaths has fallen significantly in the years since the Pap test has routinely been administered to women. The Pap test can catch precancerous cell changes in the cervix early, before they become cancerous.
Removing precancerous cells can prevent cervical cancer from developing in more than 95% of cases, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health.
Pap test results may appear abnormal for reasons other than cancer. For example, abnormal results may occur if you have a yeast infection, HPV infection, non-cancerous growths in your cervix, or abnormalities caused by problems with your immune system.
If your Pap test shows abnormal results, we here at Virtuosa GYN talk with you about follow-up care. Depending on the details of your testing and your personal health history, our recommendations may include the following:
Sometimes test results are unclear, meaning the cells aren’t clearly normal or abnormal. When this happens, we may recommend watchful waiting, which could include more testing in six months or so. Or we may suggest further testing right away.
We may recommend another Pap test immediately or in the future to confirm or rule out any problems.
A colposcopy is a test that uses a medical device known as a colposcope to allow us to take a closer look at the cells in your cervix. We insert the colposcope through your vagina into your cervix. During the test, we typically take cell samples (biopsies) that go to a laboratory for further examination.
If you have precancerous cells in your cervix, we may recommend treatment to prevent them from becoming cancerous. For example, various types of ablation procedures use surgery, laser energy, or freezing to destroy or remove cervical cells.
Make sure you’re up to date on your cervical cancer screening. Call us today to schedule a gynecological exam with one of our experienced care providers in our San Antonio, Texas, office.