Pap smears are a routine part of your women’s wellness check. Providers employ the Pap smear—which involves collecting a swab of cervical cells—to detect any changes that could indicate HPV or cervical cancer. The swab is evaluated by pathologists in a laboratory, and the findings can take up to three weeks to return to your provider. Beyond a clear or normal Pap smear, there are three types of abnormal results, including:
- Atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASC-US), meaning the cervical cells appear unusual without a clear abnormality
- Low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (LSIL), meaning the cervical cells demonstrate a mild abnormality
- High-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (HSIL), meaning the cervical cells demonstrate a moderate to severe abnormality
Your Follow-Up Appointment
It’s important to remember that abnormal test results do not always indicate the presence of cervical cancer. A Pap smear can produce a false positive, and many LSIL results represent an HPV infection that will clear on its own. In the event of an abnormal Pap smear, your provider will schedule a follow-up procedure, such as:
- A HPV-specific test. This is best suited for women with ASC-US and involves specifically testing a sample of cervical cells collected during a second Pap smear.
- A colposcopy. This visual examination of the cervix is best suited for women with LSIL and HSIL and provides an improved visualization of abnormalities on the cervix by painting the area with an iodine or vinegar based solution.
- An endocervical curettage. This procedure can be used for women with LSIL and HSIL and is a colposcopy-guided biopsy of the cervix using a spoon-shaped instrument.
- When tests indicate cervical dysplasia—precancerous abnormalities on the cervix—patients may be treated with cryosurgery or loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP). If your physician suspects cervical cancer, he or she may utilize conization to make a diagnosis. Follow your physician’s recommendations for follow-up visits.
The recommended frequency of Pap Smears depends on your age and risk factors. Talk with your primary care provider to determine what's best for you. To schedule an appointment, visit PaulBHallAnytime.com today.