While no woman loves getting a Pap smear, the test is important because it can detect abnormal cells in your cervix that could lead to cancer. The earlier you discover any potential problem, the better off you are when it comes to treatment options.
Hearing your doctor tell you that your Pap smear results are abnormal isn’t what you want to hear, but it doesn’t automatically mean you have cancer.
Here at Arlington Family Practice, we’re passionate about women’s health, so we understand you’re probably feeling a complex mix of emotions if you have an abnormal Pap smear. Here’s our advice about what steps you should take if you find yourself in that situation.
What is a Pap smear?
The goal of a Pap smear is to prevent women from getting cervical cancer. During the procedure, your doctor gathers a few cells from your cervix, and they’re analyzed to determine if the cells are normal or if there’s anything unusual about them.
The cellular changes that lead to cervical cancer happen slowly over a number of years. So, if the Pap smear detects changes that are still in the early stages, those cells can be removed to prevent the cancer from developing.
What should you do if you get an abnormal result?
If your doctor tells you the results of your Pap smear are abnormal, stay calm. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. The most common types of abnormal cells include:
- Atypical squamous cells: Not cancerous, although significance is unknown
- Squamous intraepithelial lesions: Likely precancerous
- Atypical glandular cells: These may require more testing
- Squamous cell cancer or adenocarcinoma cells: Cancer is present
If your Pap smear results are abnormal, your doctor likely orders a colposcopy to examine the cells more closely and a biopsy (a sample) for further testing. Once the results of the biopsy come back, your doctor recommends a course of action.
If the changes to the tissue are low grade, the cells are unlikely to become cervical cancer, and you can just watch and wait.
If the changes are moderate to high grade, your doctor discusses treatment options with you, including removing the cervical tissue.
Your providers at Arlington Family Practice realize what a stressful time this can be for you, and we’re with you every step of the way during this process.
If you haven’t had a Pap smear in a while, it may be time to schedule an appointment. Just call the office in Arlington, Massachusetts, or book your own appointment with our online scheduler.