First, to help ensure you have a normal Pap smear
A Pap smear test (Pap test) checks for abnormal changes to cells in the cervix. This is an important defense against cervical cancer, because early detection of abnormal cells may allow them to be removed before they develop further.
It is optimal to have the Pap test between periods. To help ensure accurate results of your Pap test, avoid the following things during the two days prior to having the test.
- Feminine hygiene products (sprays or powders)
- Vaginal medications
- Vaginal creams and suppositories
- Sexual intercourse
What you should know If your Pap smear is abnormal
There are multiple possible causes of an abnormal Pap smear. Here are some things you will want to know if your doctor advises you that your Pap test is abnormal, including what to expect next, and what you should do.
- Does an abnormal Pap smear mean you have cancer?
Having an abnormal Pap test outcome does not necessarily mean that you currently have cancer. On the contrary, most abnormal Pap tests are not due to cancer.
- What does an abnormal Pap test mean?
If your doctor informs you that your Pap smear is abnormal, that simply means that the test detected some cells on the surface of your cervix that do not appear normal.
- What causes an abnormal Pap test?
Most often, abnormal changes in cells are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection (STI). These cell changes usually go away without any treatment. However, some types of HPV have been associated with cervical cancer. This is one reason why having Pap tests routinely is so important for women’s cancer prevention.
In some instances, cell changes are caused by other infections or conditions which can be treated, including these.
- Yeast infection
- Bacterial infection
In women who have finished menopause, Pap tests may identify cell changes that appear abnormal, but that are really merely due to aging.
- What increases the risk of having an abnormal Pap smear?
Some activities or physical conditions can result in an abnormal Pap test, including the following.
- Sexual intercourse without using a condom (HPV risk)
- Multiple sexual partners (HPV risk)
- Having a sexual partner who has sex with other partners (HPV risk)
- Prior exposure to HPV, even years earlier
- Impaired immune system
- While pregnant with you, your mother had exposure to diethylstilbestrol
- If a Pap test is abnormal, will you have symptoms?
Most changes in cells which cause an abnormal Pap smear do not cause symptoms. HPV, which is the most common cause of abnormal Pap tests, does not cause symptoms. But, other STIs can cause symptoms. The following STI symptoms may occur.
- Itching, pain, or burning in your genital or pelvic area during sex or urination
- A vaginal discharge that is different from what you may normally experience, in color, texture, odor, or amount
- Lumps, sores, blisters, warts, or rashes on or in the area around your genitals
- If cervical dysplasia is found by the Pap test, does that mean you have cancer?
A Pap smear that indicates a patient has cervical dysplasia means that there are abnormal cells on the cervix (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia). This is not cancer.
The level of cervical dysplasia may be mild or more severe. Additional tests can evaluate the degree of cervical dysplasia that exists.
In most cases, mild dysplasia goes away without treatment. In rare cases, dysplasia has developed into cancer. In severe cases of dysplasia, your doctor can recommend a procedure for removing the abnormal cells.
- What happens after an abnormal Pap smear?
Your doctor may suggest monitoring your condition by taking a follow-up Pap test to see if there is a recurrence of abnormal cells or HPV.
- Colposcopy — This is examination of the vagina, cervix, and vulva. A view magnifier is used to locate abnormal cells and determine the extent of abnormality.
- Biopsy — A small sample of cells is taken for laboratory testing.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) test — Your doctor may recommend having this test a year or so after an abnormal Pap smear. (Even after normal Pap smear, having this test every 3 years may be recommended.)
For your OB/GYN care, including Pap test monitoring in Denver
The basis of our OB/GYN practice is compassionate and individualized care for each woman throughout her lifetime. We also believe in forming a partnership with each woman and providing education and information.
Dr. Eule makes herself available 24 hours a day 7 days a week through her answering service. She also crosses patient care coverage with 4 other female OB/GYNs in Denver. If there is a problem or an emergency, a competent female doctor in Denver is on hand to ensure our patients receive prompt help, in the event that she may temporarily be unavailable.
Our highly qualified nurse practitioner, Cathie, is also available to provide our patients with a wide variety of healthcare services.
We enjoy being there for our patients, and we feel honored to be entrusted with their OB/GYN care.
For More Information
If you would like more information about having a Pap tests, or want to schedule a consultation or examination by an OB/GYN physician in Denver, contact our office, Kristine A. Eule, MD, to make an appointment. Our office is located in the Denver Tech Center. We provide women’s health care in a friendly, intimate environment. Our office hours are M-TH 8:30am – 5pm, F 8:30am – 3pm on Friday.