At New Beginnings OB-GYN, we use a Pap smear — or Pap test — to monitor your cervical health. Your cervix is above your vagina at the very bottom of your uterus. When we do this test, we’re looking for specific changes in your cervical cells that could turn into cancer down the road.
Because Pap smears are a preventive screening for cervical cancer, we understand how scary it can be to get abnormal results. However, even if you have an abnormal Pap smear, it rarely means you have cancer.
Here’s what your Pap results might mean, and how we move forward if you have an abnormal test.
When you have a Pap smear, your results are either normal (negative) or abnormal (positive). Abnormal results mean there were irregularities found in your cervical cells. In many cases, they're because of the human papillomavirus, or HPV.
HPV is a common sexually transmitted disease directly linked to cervical cancer. With regular Pap testing, however, we can watch for signs of cervical changes early on and treat them before they progress or become life-threatening.
Other common causes of abnormal Pap tests include:
You can also get what’s called a “false positive” result. To avoid this, don’t use tampons and feminine products like suppositories, creams, and sprays in the days leading up to your appointment. You should also abstain from sexual intercourse.
If you have an abnormal Pap, we make different recommendations based on whether your results were low- or high-grade. Low-grade results mean we found only a slight abnormality in some of your cells. When you have high-grade results, they indicate your cells are significantly more unusual and could develop into cancer in the future.
Depending on your results, we might recommend another Pap, colposcopy, or removing the abnormal cells altogether.
Sometimes, all you need is another Pap smear so we can reevaluate your cervical cells. This is often done in combination with HPV testing so we can look for the presence of an infection.
A colposcopy gives us a more detailed look at your cervix. During this procedure, we examine your cervix under magnification to differentiate areas with normal and abnormal tissue. When you have a colposcopy, we can also take tissue samples for additional testing.
In some cases, we might recommend removing your abnormal cervical cells to keep them from becoming cancerous. We typically use two different methods: cryosurgery and loop electrosurgical excision (LEEP). Cryosurgery removes abnormal cells by freezing, and LEEP uses a small wire charged with electricity.
If additional testing indicates the presence of cervical cancer, we work closely with you to determine the next steps in your treatment strategy.
To learn more about Pap smears and protecting your cervical health, request an appointment here on our New Beginnings OB-GYN website, or give us a call to schedule your consultation at our Las Vegas office.