If you have an abnormal Pap smear, you may need more tests. Follow-up with your doctor right away if your result is abnormal. The sooner you do, the sooner you can take the next steps to protect your health.
A Pap smear generally comes in two parts, one test describes what the cells look like under the microscope (“cytology”). The other test is the presence or absence of the human papillomavirus (HPV). If you are younger than age 30, only cytology is done. Most people with a cervix over the age of 30 should have both cytology and HPV test as part of their Pap smear.
Pap smear tests can have one of 3 results:
- Normal – no abnormal cells seen and HPV test is negative
- Precancer or Dysplasia – some abnormal cells, HPV may be positive or negative
- Cancer – cancer cells are seen. This is rare!
Dysplasia means that there are some abnormal cells. Sometimes this is referred to as precancer because if left untreated, these abnormal cells can turn into cancer. Cells can have mild dysplasia (low grade), or severe dysplasia (high grade). If you have cells with dysplasia on your pap smear, you will likely need more tests. This is especially true if the HPV test is positive. A procedure called a colposcopy is often done to look more closely at the cervix. Often a small sample of abnormal tissue (a biopsy) is sent to a lab for further testing. The results of these tests will help your medical provider decide your next steps.
If your Pap test result is cancer, your doctor will still do more tests to be sure. Most cervical cancer is treatable. This is especially true if it is caught and treated early.
Abnormal Pap smear today --- Follow-up right away!