If after your procedure of a pap smear abnormal cells or dysplasia has been detected, what does this mean for you? What are the implications of those abnormal cells and what next will you need to do? In this post, we examine the ramifications.
The good news is that Pap smear abnormal cells usually mean that a problem has been detected in time and before it has turned malignant. So any treatment that is required to be started can be started when the problem is largely treatable and the extent of damage can be minimized.
What is a Pap Smear?
This is a gynecological procedure where a speculum is inserted into a woman’s vagina to the point of the cervix to gather cells from the outer opening of the cervix. These cells are then examined under a microscope to detect any dysplasia, cancerous or precancerous cells.
In addition other abnormalities such as infections can also be detected.
What is the likelihood of a woman having pap smear abnormal cells detected?
In the general population the chances of a pap smear detecting worrying abnormalities is quite low and mostly it will be common infections such as yeast and so on that are usually detected. Other abnormalities or sexually transmitted infections such as herpes, trichomoniasis may also be detected.
The risk of detecting abnormality in a pap smear rises with certain risk factors. For instance a woman who has an HPV infection or genital warts is more likely to have an abnormal pap smear.
The risk of HPV rises among women who have multiple sex partners and who have started sexual intercourse earlier in life. Women who smoke, who are on certain medications, or who have a weakened immune system, are also more at risk of being detected with abnormal cells in their pap smear.
What happens when pap smear abnormal cells are detected?
When abnormalities are detected, they are mostly mild abnormalities detected in 2 to 10% of the tests. In about 2% of the results low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions may be detected, which indicates the presence of a HPV infection.
But even this doesn’t mean that a woman is going to develop cancer because most of the detected low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions usually resolve on their own without leading to cervical cancer. The detection of the lesions however means that a woman needs to be more vigilant about her health and checkups.
Usually if any Pap smear abnormal cells are detected, the physician will also perform a colposcopy which is basically a closer look at the cervix using a microscope. Another pap smear or further testing will reveal the nature of the abnormality – whether inflammation or infection is present, or is any precancerous cells are detected.
Additionally if in a pap smear abnormal cells are detected, cryosurgery may be suggested. This is the freezing of normal cells. A cone biopsy or the LEEP procedure to remove abnormal tissue from the cervix will help the physician know more about the nature of the abnormality.