What Is an Abnormal Pap Test?
When your doctor states that your Pap test, or Pap smear, was abnormal, it suggests that the test discovered some cells on your cervix that do not look normal.
A Pap test might be done as part of a lady’s regular physical exam, because it’s the best method to prevent cervical cancer. But having an abnormal test outcome does not suggest you have cancer. In reality, the chances that you have cancer are very little.
What Causes an Abnormal Pap Smear Test?
Most of the time, the abnormal cell modifications are caused by certain types of human papillomavirus, or HPV. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection.
Normally these cell modifications disappear on their own. However specific types of HPV have been connected to cervical cancer. That’s why regular Pap tests are so important.
In some cases the altered cells are because of other types of infection, such as those caused by bacteria or yeast. These infections can be treated.
In women who have been through menopause, a Pap test may find cell modifications that are simply the result of getting older.
What Boosts Your Risk for an Abnormal Pap Test?
Particular sexual behaviors, like making love without prophylactics and having more than one sex partner (or having a sex partner who has other partners), can increase your risk for getting HPV. And HPV raises your risk for having an abnormal pap test.
HPV can remain in your body for several years without your understanding it. So even if you now have simply one partner and practice safer sex, you could still have an abnormal Pap smear test if you were exposed to HPV in the past.
Smoking or having an impaired immune system also raises your opportunities of having cell modifications in your cervix.
Do Abnormal Cell Modifications Cause Symptoms?
The cell changes themselves don’t cause symptoms. HPV, which causes most abnormal Pap tests, typically does not cause symptoms either.
If a different sexually transmitted infection is the cause of your abnormal test, you may have symptoms such as:
- A discharge from the vagina that isn’t really typical for you, such as a modification in the amount, color, smell, or texture.
- Pain, burning, or itching in your pelvic or genital area when you urinate or have sex.
- Sores, swellings, blisters, rashes, or warts on or around your genital areas.
What Will You Need to Do if You Have an Abnormal Pap Test?
You might need more tests to learn if you have an infection or to discover how severe the cell modifications are. For instance, you might require:
- Colposcopy, a test to take a look at the vagina and cervix through a lighted magnifying tool.
- An HPV test. Like a Pap test, an HPV test is done on a sample of cells drawn from the cervix.
- Another Pap test in about 6 to 12 months.
A colposcopy is generally done prior to any treatment is given. During a colposcopy, the doctor also takes a small sample of tissue from the cervix so that it can be taken a look at under a microscope. This is called a biopsy.
Treatment, if any, will depend upon whether your abnormal cell changes are mild, moderate, or severe. In moderate to severe cases, you might have treatment to ruin or remove the abnormal cells.