A Pap test, sometimes called a Pap smear, is often part of a pelvic exam. The test is designed to check the cells on your cervix for any changes that might lead to cancer. If you’re told your Pap test is abnormal, here are some things to know:
First, and most importantly: An abnormal Pap test usually DOES NOT mean that you have cancer. An abnormal Pap means that the cells collected from your cervix do not look normal, which can be due to inflammation or changes from a viral infection that can sometimes lead to precancerous changes.
What happens next: A discussion with your doctor.
Depending on the test result, he or she may repeat the Pap immediately or maybe even in a year. Or, your doctor may order a different kind of test called a colposcopy where the doctor will look at your cervix with a microscope.
Every case is unique, of course, but it’s good to remember that treating abnormal cells that don’t go away on their own can prevent almost all cases of cervical cancer. But that depends on discovering those abnormal cells early enough for effective treatment. This is just one more reason why it’s so important to maintain a regular appointment with your OB/GYN. That way, you have the peace of mind that you’re getting the exams and screenings you need—when you need them.