Most people think of a Pap smear as a test for cervical cancer, but in reality, it simply looks for unusual changes in the cells of your cervix. The test narrows down which women need a closer evaluation of their cervix.
At Trusted Women’s Health Center, expert OB/GYN Dr. Sidiq Aldabbagh, MD, and our caring team are here to demystify Pap smears and help you navigate the follow-up process after your abnormal Pap smear. Here’s what you need to do next:
First, our team discusses your results with you and explains what those results migh mean. Usually, the results mean you have atypical cervical cells due to human papillomavirus (HPV). Less than 1% of abnormal Pap smears represent cervical cancer, but abnormal changes still require further investigation.
To get a more in-depth understanding of the changes that might show up in your Pap smear, the next step is usually another in-office test.
Colposcopy is the standard follow-up test after an abnormal Pap smear. This test is somewhat similar to a Pap smear in terms of your experience. Dr. Aldabbagh uses a speculum to dilate the walls of your vagina, allowing him to better examine your cervix.
Next, he washes the cervix using a vinegar-like solution containing acetic acid. Your cervical cells react to the solution, turning the abnormal cells white. Then, Dr. Aldabbagh uses a colposcope, a magnifying device similar to binoculars in appearance, to examine your cervix in more detail than before.
Along with looking closely at the cells, Dr. Aldabbagh takes another cell sample for testing. You’ll feel a quick pinch, but it’s not painful.
The next step depends on your biopsy results. If your test shows no abnormal cells, you usually don’t need any further testing or treatment at that time.
If your biopsy shows abnormal cells, treatment depends on the degree of severity. Some women simply need monitoring at regular intervals, as both low- and high-grade atypical cell changes often go away on their own, usually within 24 months. But, in other cases, particularly with high-grade cell changes, you may need treatment to remove all the abnormal cells.
Sometimes, Dr. Aldabbagh can remove all the abnormal cervical cells during your biopsy, but in other situations, you may need treatment to destroy the cells through procedures, such as freezing (cryotherapy) or heat (loop electrosurgical excision procedure or LEEP).
An abnormal Pap smear need not be a cause for alarm. At Trusted Women’s Health Center, we’re here to guide you through the testing process, and, if you need it, help you get treatment that prevents cervical cancer. Call our Kendall or Miami office or reach out to connect with us online today.