While having a Pap smear test every couple of years is not very enjoyable, it is very necessary. Pap smears have been proven to be an incredibly effective method for detecting the changes and abnormalities that can later develop into cervical cancer. So do abnormal test results mean you have cancer?
Pap Test with Abnormal Results
Fortunately, an abnormal Pap result almost never means cancer. What it does mean, however, is that your doctor found some type of cell differences on your cervix and will now need to follow up accordingly.
How HPV May Influence Results
In most cases these changes are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), generally contracted through vaginal, anal, and/or oral sex. Most of the time your body’s immune system manages to eliminate the HPV within a few years before any major damage occurs.
That’s why the Pap test is so important: it detects these changes early.
Follow-up Pap Test Screening
These changes indicate something is not quite right, so you may require another Pap test in a number of months to confirm the results, or undergo what’s called a colposcopy, a procedure allowing a closer, more detailed look at your cervix using a specially designed lens. If the changes turn out to be major, your doctor may decide to treat you sooner to stop and reverse those changes as soon as possible.
In any case, an abnormal Pap result is not an automatic cancer diagnosis. But not getting checked out as recommended may allow an easily detected and treatable form of cancer to develop when it could have been prevented with a simple test.
If you have any questions about a Pap smear test or HPV, talk to your primary care physician, OB/GYN, or any of our care providers at your nearest AppleCare clinic.