What is an Abnormal Pap Test?


Pap tests or Pap smears provide an easy way to detect signs of cervical abnormalities that can relate to cancer and various other diseases. A Pap smear is a common procedure for women and can be performed by your OB/GYN provider or at a local clinic.

Does a Pap Smear Hurt?

A Pap smear examines the cells of the cervix to test for cervical cancers in women. The process of examining these cells may cause discomfort. Here’s what to expect once you enter the exam room!

  1. First, your physician will ask you to get comfortable and step out of the room while you remove your clothing and change into a highly fashionable paper robe.
  2. Then, you will be asked to lie on a table with your feet in a stirrup which allows the physician to take a closer look.
  3. If you think you’ll get away with having your knees touch while your feet are in the stirrups, think again – time to spread your legs!
  4. Your doctor will then lubricate a tool called a speculum which can be plastic or metal and insert it into your vagina (Don’t be alarmed, this is the tool that gently widens your vaginal walls once it’s in).
  5. Now that your doctor has your cervix in clear sight it’s time to swab!
  6. Your doctor will then insert what looks like an oversized one-ended q-tip into your vagina to get a sample of cells from your cervix.
  7. This step is what most women fear the most because it may stimulate a pain that is similar to menstrual cramping, don’t worry though it should stop right after the q-tip is taken out.
  8. Your sample is then placed into a tube and prepared for lab tests!

The entire procedure should last between 10 and 20 minutes with the most uncomfortable part only taking a minute or so! These sample cervix cells will detect changes in your cells that suggest cancer may develop in the future.

What does an Abnormal Pap Smear Mean?

Your Pap smear results will either be negative or positive. A positive Pap smear means there is unusual activity in your cervix. These cell abnormalities can signal the future development of cancer, but not always. Find out more about abnormal pap smears in our blog: What Does an Abnormal Pap Smear Mean?

cervical cancer

Types of Abnormal Pap Smears

If you received a positive result from your Pap smear, it doesn’t mean you have cancer or that you will get cancer. There are many reasons why your results may be positive.

Types of abnormal cervical cells include the following:

  • Atypical Squamous Cells of Undetermined Significance, or ASCUS. Squamous cells flat, thin, and found on the surface of a healthy cervix. With ASCUS, the Pap test shows squamous cells that are slightly abnormal, but no substantial evidence of precancerous potential is present.
  • Squamous intraepithelial lesion. Cells of this kind may be precancerous. Low-grade changes usually mean that a precancerous lesion is likely years away from becoming cancerous. High-grade changes indicate a higher probability that the lesion will soon turn cancerous
  • Atypical glandular cells. These cells produce mucus around the cervix and uterus. Atypical ones may indicate a precancerous condition.
  • Squamous cell cancer or adenocarcinoma cells. The discovery of cells of this kind provides almost certain evidence that cancer is developing.

What Happens After I Get an Abnormal Pap Smear?

Depending on what your lab work reveals about the abnormality of your cervical cells your doctor may perform a colposcopy to examine the tissues of the cervix, vulva, and vagina. Your doctor may also take a tissue sample (biopsy) from any areas that appear to be abnormal. The tissue samples will be sent off to a laboratory for analysis and diagnosis; then your doctor will lay out your course of treatment.

Visit OB-GYN Women’s Centre for Your Next Annual

The providers at OB-GYN Women’s Centre of Lakewood Ranch have a reputation for making every visit feel as comfortable as possible. We know how the small things like providing extra comfort and care could make all the difference during your appointment. Your annual Well Woman visit guarantees quality care to ensure your health! Contact us today at (941) 254-2717 or schedule your appointment.

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