Abnormal Pap Smears and Treatment
A Pap smear is a gynecological procedure that tests for abnormalities of the cervix- namely precancerous and already cancerous cervical cells. If these types of cells are not present on the patient’s cervix or cervical area, then the Pap test will return as “normal”. However, in the case that abnormalities are detected, the Pap test will be returned as “abnormal”, calling for further testing to assess exactly what the problem is and the severity of it.
What is an Abnormal Pap Smear?
An abnormal Pap smear is a Pap smear that has shown the presence of an irregularity of the cervix or the cervical area. However, an abnormal Pap smear does not necessarily mean that the patient has cancer or is in a precancerous state; a Pap smear is a gynecological test, not a gynecological diagnosis. What an abnormal Pap smear does mean, however, is that another Pap smear, a more in-depth gynecological test, or both, may be required.
Besides being capable of indicating the presence of cervical cancer or precancerous conditions (precancerous conditions are typically referred to as “cervical dysplasia”), an abnormal Pap smear can also indicate the presence of:
- Yeast Infections
- STIs/STDs (specifically Herpes and trichomoniasis)
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
What causes Abnormal Pap Smears?
The most common cause of Abnormal Pap Smears is the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is the most commonly transmitted sexual infection. For most people who have contracted the human papilloma virus, the virus will usually disappear naturally, on their own, typically without the presence of any symptoms such as genital warts. Although there are many different forms of the human papilloma virus, only certain forms of the virus are capable of causing abnormal Pap smears.
Sometimes, abnormal Pap smears are caused by other types of infections such as a bacterial infection or a Yeast infection. These types of infections are very treatable.
What treatments are available for Abnormal Pap Smears?
Before any treatments for abnormal Pap smears are administered, a more specialized test may need to be performed in order to pinpoint the exact cause of the abnormal Pap smear so that a suitable treatment may be given. To find out the cause of an abnormal Pap smear, a colonoscopy, a human papilloma virus (HPV) test, or another Pap smear may need to be performed.
If an abnormal Pap smear was caused by an HPV infection, the only course of action to do, usually, is to carefully keep watch to see whether or not the HPV disappears on its own, as it typically does. In the case that the HPV infection does not go away on its own, there are medicines and treatments available to encourage the infection to disappear before it develops into cancerous cells. Because there is no known cure for the HPV virus- only medicines and treatments to keep symptoms at bay- the HPV virus will remain in the patient, regardless of treatment.
If an abnormal Pap smear is caused by an STD or STI, any available medicines and treatments for that specific STD or STI may be administered. A good amount of STDs and STIs can be cured with treatment; other STDs and STIs cannot be fully cured, but with treatment, symptoms can be kept under control.
If an abnormal Pap smear is caused by the presence of cervical dysplasia or already cancerous cells, treatment will be focused on the surgical removal of the areas containing the cervical dysplasia or cancerous cells. Surgical removal may mean the use of:
- LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure), which utilizes a thin, looped wire to remove those areas
- Cryotherapy, which removes those areas through destruction via freezing
- Laser therapy, which removes those areas with lasers
- Cone biopsy, or “conization”, which is the cone-shaped surgical excision of those areas
How to prevent Abnormal Pap Smears?
As a good amount of abnormal Pap smears are caused the the human papilloma virus, high-risk sex dramatically increases your risk of having an abnormal Pap smear. There are several high-risk sexual behaviors that can also increase your chances of contracting an STD or STI, thereby also increasing your chances of having an abnormal Pap smear. To reduce your chances of receiving an abnormal Pap test result, always practice safe sex.
Other ways to prevent an abnormal Pap smear are:
- To quit smoking
- Maintain your overall health
- Get vaccinated for the human papilloma virus (HPV)
If you’d like to find out more about abnormal Pap smears, ways to prevent abnormal Pap smears, or are simply due for a Pap smear, please contact us at 614.882.4343. Same day appointments are available!