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Abnormal Pap Smears

What is a pap smear?

A pap smear is a screening test for cervical pre-cancers and cervical cancer. A pap smear involves collecting cells from your cervix for microscopic evaluation. Detecting abnormal cells on the cervix early with a pap smear can help prevent the development of cervical cancer.


How might my pap smear be abnormal?

The pap smear may show abnormal cells of different levels of severity, ranging from low-grade to high-grade abnormalities, including:

  • Atypical cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS)
  • Atypical cells, cannot exclude a high-grade lesion (ASC-H)
  • Low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (LGSIL)
  • High-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (HGSIL)
  • Carcinoma in situ (CIS)
  • Cervical cancer

In women age 30 or older, the Pap smear is often combined with a test for human papillomavirus (HPV)—a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer.

What happens next if I have an abnormal pap smear?

Based on your age and the level of abnormality on the pap smear, a colposcopy procedure is often recommended to further evaluate the degree of abnormality.

Occasionally a pap smear may detect bacteria or yeast on the cervix, which can be a normal finding. We do not recommend treatment for these findings unless you are having symptoms of a vaginal infection.

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