Abnormal Pap Specialist
Abnormal Pap smears are common and may or may not reflect the need for treatment for a condition or disease. While infrequent, some abnormal Pap tests derive from cervical cancer. To schedule your Pap smear or discuss abnormal results see Dr. Maryann Prewitt at HealthWellnessMD in Dallas, Texas.
Abnormal Pap Q & A
by Maryann Prewitt, MD, FACOG
What is an abnormal Pap?
Abnormal Pap smear results mean that cells in your cervix don’t appear normal. While Pap smears are the best way to help prevent cervical cancer, abnormal results don’t mean you have the disease. Most abnormal Pap smears don’t end up correlated to cancer. Additional tests may be ordered to rule out or detect conditions including cervical cancer.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer happens when cells, starting in the lining of the uterus, grow out of control. It most often derives from HPV (human papillomavirus). Cancer cells divide more quickly than other cells and invade tissue eventually forming a tumor. HPV can also cause cancer of the vagina, vulva, anus and penis.
Am I at risk for this cancer?
You are at increased risk for HPV and cervical cancer if you began engaging in sexual activity before age 18 or you or your partner have had multiple sexual partners. Other risk factors include smoking, having contracted chlamydia, previous multiple full-term pregnancies and long-term use of oral contraceptives.
What kind of abnormal Pap results are linked with cancer?
If your Pap shows dysplasia it means you have cells infected with HPV. There are several types of HPV. The highest cancer-related risk types—16 and 18/45—are the most aggressive in leading to cervical cancer.
Is there a cure for HPV?
At this time there is no cure for HPV. Several vaccinations are available, however, to provide protection from some types of the virus.
What test identifies cervical cancer?
Screening for cervical cancer starts with a Pap smear, but it won’t detect it. If Dr. Prewitt suspects cervical cancer additional tests may include a biopsy—removal of tissue for lab testing—or colposcopy, which allows your doctor to visually inspect cervical cells. Results are then sent to a pathologist to detect higher levels of dysplasia, carcinoma in situ or the presence of cancer. If dysplasia is present but no cancer is found, early detection allows for treatment to prevent abnormal cells from progressing.
What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer symptoms may include abnormal vaginal bleeding, spotting, watery discharge and painful sex. Because these symptoms can also derive from other conditions, such as infections, seeking proper testing and diagnosis is important.