Pap smears are performed to test for cellular changes in the cervix. While receiving news that your pap smear came back abnormal can be frightening, abnormal pap smears are more common than you may think. In fact, as many as one in 10 pap smears come back abnormal nationwide. A pap smear can come back abnormal for a wide range of reasons, such as an infection, inflammation, human papilloma virus (HPV) or even recent sexual activity.
What Is An Abnormal Pap Smear?
If your pap smear comes back abnormal, it means that the sample collected contains abnormal appearing cervical cells. The presence of abnormal cells does not mean you have cervical cancer, but additional testing like a colposcopy may be needed to determine if dysplasia (precancerous cells) are present. Dysplasia is caused by the HPV virus. HPV is a very common infection and the majority of sexually-active individuals have been exposed to at least one strain of the virus. Undergoing regular pap smears is the best way to identify abnormal cervical cells before they have the chance to progress from dysplasia into cervical cancer.
Management & Treatment For Abnormal Pap Smears
If you have received news of an abnormal pap smear, additional testing may be recommended. This usually begins with a colposcopy. This procedure is used to determine if dysplasia (precancerous cells) are present. The changes to your cervical cells can be mild, moderate or severe and treatment recommendations are dependent on the degree of abnormality and other factors like a prior history of dysplasia and pregnancy.
Certain abnormal cervical cells may be treated with:
- Cryotherapy – Cryotherapy is a freezing procedure done in the office. This procedure is quick and is relatively painless. Shortly after, the frozen cells shed with the hope of eliminating dysplastic cells.
- LEEP – A Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP) involves removing abnormal areas of the cervix with a wire loop power by electric energy. It can be done in the office, although in some cases sedation with anesthesia may be recommended.
- Cone Biopsy – During a cone biopsy, a small section of tissue is surgically removed from the cervix. This procedure is generally done under anesthesia.
Speak To Raleigh Gynecology For More Information
Based in Raleigh, NC, Raleigh Gynecology & Wellness consists of a team of highly-trained physicians, nurses and administrative staff dedicated to the health of women of all ages. For more information about the management of abnormal pap smears, schedule an appointment online with our practice today.