It used to be that cervical cancer was one of the leading causes of cancer death in women. Today only a little more than 13,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year thanks to one simple screening tool — the Pap test. This simple swab of your cervix allows us to check for any abnormal cell activity, often long before cells become precancerous or cancerous, giving us ample time to action.
At our practice, Dr. Kelly Morales offers a wide range of services that cover the unique needs of women, from comprehensive gynecologic care to pregnancy. As part of our preventive care, we routinely perform Pap tests for women in the San Antonio area, allowing us to closely monitor their cervical health and step in when needed.
If your Pap smear results were abnormal, here’s what you need to know.
The Pap test is an early detection tool that we use to check for abnormal cells on your cervix. These cells are largely the result of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a very common sexually transmitted disease. In fact, HPV is so common that nearly 80% of sexually active women contract the infection at some point in their lives.
What’s important to understand is that there are about 200 different types of HPV and only 13 have the potential to lead to cervical cancer. In most cases of HPV, which also causes conditions like warts, your body fights off the infection on its own.
In far less common cases, HPV can lead to the development of precancerous and eventually cancerous cells on your cervix if they go undetected, which is why the Pap test is so important.
If we find abnormal cells on your cervix, this typically means that your body has been infected by HPV. If you don’t have a family history or personal history of reproductive cancers, we take a surveillance stance, which means we retest you 3-6 months after your first test.
If your results are clear, that means your body resolved the issue on its own. If your results are still abnormal, we either wait another few months to test you again, or we take your testing to the next level.
If your Pap smear results continue to show abnormal cells, we usually perform a colposcopy, which is a procedure in which we insert a slim camera into your vagina to take a closer look at your cervix. During your colposcopy, we also take a small sample of cervical tissue for a biopsy.
We perform this procedure right in our office, and you’re free to go afterward. You may feel some slight cramping and have some spotting, but these side effects are usually short-lived.
Depending upon the results of your colposcopy, which may take several weeks, we determine the next steps. In the unlikely event that we find precancerous or cancerous cells, we remove the cells before cervical cancer can even take hold.
The bottom line is that abnormal results on a Pap test are actually quite common and no reason to panic. It simply means that this preventive tool is doing it’s job and gives us the opportunity to closely watch your health and step in before a more serious condition develops.
If you have any questions about the Pap smear and abnormal results, please contact us at 210-570-7277.