My Pap Smear Was Abnormal. Now What?

May 17, 2023
My Pap Smear Was Abnormal. Now What?
A Pap smear test is an important cervical cancer screening tool. But what happens when you have positive — or abnormal — test results? We answer that question and more here.

A Pap smear is a procedure that’s done in order to test for cervical cancer. All women over the age of 25 should receive a Pap smear about every 3-5 years, as long as they don’t have any health concerns that would require one more often. During the procedure, cells from your cervix are gently scraped away in order to look for any abnormal growth. 

At Women’s Specialty Care, Karen Mass, MD, FACOG, and the rest of our team perform Pap smears as an important preventative care measure. Pap smears are vital for cervical cancer screening and have the potential to save lives. Here’s how to understand your Pap smear results and what the next steps are should you receive an abnormal test result

Understanding your Pap smear results

After a week or so, you should get the results from your Pap smear test. They’ll come back as normal, abnormal, or inconclusive. Most of the time, results will come back normal, or negative. If this is the case, you don’t have to worry about any further testing or another Pap smear for a few more years.

If your results are inconclusive or abnormal, it’s important to know that it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cervical cancer. Abnormal test results could simply mean your cervix is inflamed or you have an infection. However, our team will order more tests to figure out what caused an abnormal Pap smear.

What to expect after an abnormal Pap smear

A test we perform after an abnormal or inconclusive Pap smear is called a colposcopy

During this procedure, we place a speculum in your vagina in order to get a clear view of your cervix. Then we use a magnifying tool called a colposcope to view any abnormal tissue up close. If we do identify abnormal tissue, we remove it for lab testing — otherwise known as a biopsy.

After the colposcopy is finished, you can go home right away. It should take about a week to get the biopsy results in. If the biopsy shows that there’s abnormal tissue in your cervix, the next procedures we recommend are either a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) or cryotherapy to remove the abnormal tissue. 

Should the unhealthy tissue grow back after one of these removal procedures, you may need a more permanent surgical solution like a hysterectomy to protect against cervical cancer.

Whatever treatment you end up needing or choosing, our team is here to inform you of all your options so you can make an educated decision about what’s best for you and your health.

Next steps

If you haven’t had a Pap smear in several years, don’t wait to schedule your next one. Pap smears detect precancerous cells and can help to protect you against cervical cancer.

To schedule your next Pap smear with us, simply contact our Lake Forest or Grayslake, Illinois, office by giving us a call or by using our online scheduling tool today.