Abnormal Pap Smear
A Pap smear or Pap test is conducted as part of a woman’s routine health examination every two years. It is recommended for all sexually active women from the age of 18 years or after being sexually active for 2 years (whichever is later). It is not a diagnostic test, but is a screening tool used to detect any abnormal cells in the cervix (the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina).
A Pap smear aids early detection of serious medical conditions such as cervical cancer.
An abnormal Pap smear may be due to the presence of abnormal cells, but does not necessarily denote cancer. Abnormal results will require further investigations and additional testing to confirm if there is an underlying problem which may require treatment.
Causes of an abnormal pap smear
An abnormal Pap smear may indicate any of the following:
- An infection or inflammation
- Dysplasia (abnormal cells that may be pre-cancerous)
- HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) infection
Most women with abnormal cells do not have any symptoms which is why it is important to have regular screening tests for early detection of any abnormalities.
Following an abnormal Pap smear result, the next step is further testing to confirm the cause of the abnormal cells. A repeat Pap smear or test for human papilloma virus (HPV), a major risk factor for cervical cancer, may also be recommended. Women may have a colposcopy performed with biopsies to further assess the abnormal cells
Depending on the age of the patient and the type of abnormal cells, the doctor may recommend the following treatment options:
- Laser therapy to treat abnormal cells
- Cone biopsy or LLETZ procedure: Involving the surgical removal of a small area of the cervix containing the abnormal cells. This is then reviewed by the pathologist to assess the abnormality
Abnormal pap smear during pregnancy
A Pap smear during pregnancy is very safe. If an abnormal Pap smear result is found during pregnancy, a colposcopy can be safely performed. Further treatment is usually delayed where possible until the birth of the baby.