Pap smears are essential in monitoring the health of the female reproductive system. Every woman over 21 or who is sexually active should have a pap smear test performed by a general practitioner or gynecolosist annually. Occasionally, the results of a pap smear test will come back abnormal or irregular. Although this doesn’t necessarily indicate a serious condition, it’s usually followed with additional tests and procedures to determine the reason.
What is the Purpose of a Pap Smear?
During a pap smear test, a physician takes a small sample of the cells from a woman’s cervix in order to test for cancerous cells or cells that appear to be developing into cancer. Since the use of the pap smear test became widespread in the mid-1950s, deaths from cervical cancer have dropped substantially, in some areas as much as 99 percent. Most gynecologists recommend that young women begin undergoing pap smear tests annually as soon as they are 21 or become regularly sexually active.
What Does an Irregular Pap Smear Result Mean?
An irregular pap smear test result doesn’t definitely mean that cervical cancer is present. There are many things other than cancerous cells that can cause an abnormal pap smear result. Your general physician or gynecologist will most likely recommend re-testing in several months and, possibly, a number of other diagnostic tests will be performed. These include a colopscopy or endocervical scraping. Both tests allow the doctor to take a further sample of cervical tissue and to determine if cancer is present.
What Can Cause an Irregular Pap Smear?
An irregular pap smear can result from a number of things other than the presence of cancerous cells. Some common causes include yeast infections, a pap smear performed during your menstrual cycle, sexual activity within the 48 hours before the test, herpes, genital warts (also known as human papilloma virus), trichomoniasis, and the use of vaginal creams, jellies, foams or tampons.
What Does it Mean if I Have an Irregular Pap Smear While Pregnant?
Pap smears can be safely performed during pregnancy, An abnormal pap smear result doesn’t indicate there is any risk to your baby whatsoever. Most obstetricians will recommend a colposcopy, but no further treatment is usually performed until after the baby’s birth.
What Will My Doctor Recommend if I Have an Irregular Pap Smear?
The first step will be to repeat the pap smear test. In order to make sure the results for the second testing are as accurate as possible, be certain that the test is scheduled when you’re not on your period (5 days after the end of your cycle is best), and don’t use any female products such as douches, vaginal creams, jellies for at least 24 hours before the test. In addition, do not have sexual intercourse for 1 to 2 days before the test. If the results of the second pap smear are also abnormal, the next steps include a colposcopy and a biopsy. Two common biopsies performed, the Cone biopsy and the LEEP procedure, are outpatient procedures and give the doctor a larger section of cervical tissue to study for cancerous cells.