an abnormal Pap smear mean I have cancer of the cervix?
Not necessarily. While
an abnormal Pap smear may be the sign of cancer, many different changes on
your cervix can cause an abnormal Pap smear. Pap smears can be abnormal if
the cervix is inflamed or irritated. This can be caused by in infection of
the cervix, douching, menopausal changes, or irritation. The cervix may
also be going through some changes called dysplasia. Dysplasia means the
cells on the Pap smear look abnormal under the microscope. Dysplasia isn’t
the same thing as cancer but may lead to cancer if not treated.
Why do I need more
Because your Pap smear
was abnormal, more information is needed. An abnormal Pap smear is a
general sign that something may be wrong. Further tests will be needed to
show what (if anything) is actually wrong. You may need another Pap smear
or a colposcopy.
What is a colposcopy?
A colposcope is a
special instrument that shine a light on your cervix and magnifies it so
that it can be seen better. If the doctor sees an area that doesn’t look
normal, he will take a small piece of tissue from that area. This is
called a biopsy. The tissue sample will be examined under a microscope.
Having a colposcopy feels similar to having a Pap smear but takes a little
longer. Some women have some cramping and bleeding during or after a
colposcopy. We recommend that you take Advil or Tylenol prior to the exam.
What are my treatment
Your treatment options
depend on the cause of the abnormal results. If the problem is a minor
infection, it often is treated with medication. If the abnormal Pap smear
is caused by changes in the cells, the affected areas of the cervix may
need to be removed. There are several kinds of treatment to remove
abnormal tissue from the cervix. The surface of the cervix may be frozen
in a procedure called cryosurgery. Another method called LEEP uses a tiny
electrical wire that acts like a very sharp scaple to remove the abnormal
areas. Lasers may also be used to destroy the abnormal areas.
What happens after I
have been treated?
That depends on what
abnormalities are found and how they are treated. In general, most women
who have an abnormal Pap smear need to have pap smears more often for a
while after they have been treated. The doctor will let you know how often
you will need to have Pap smears and/or colposcopic evaluations.