Learning that the results of your recent pap smear came back abnormal can generate feelings of anxiety and concern. Rest assured that the gynecologists and women’s health specialists at Palo Alto Medical Foundation can help you understand your results and treatment options.
Abnormal pap smear results are very common and can indicate a variety of issues. Some of the more serious issues include the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV) or precancerous cells on the cervix.
Depending on your health history, your doctor may order a repeat pap smear test or a more detailed examination called colposcopy. During a colposcopy, your gynecologist uses a microscope to get a more detailed look at the cells on your cervix. After gently swabbing your cervix with a vinegar or iodine solution, your doctor looks for signs of abnormal tissue. If your doctor notices any suspicious cells, a small biopsy of the tissue may be taken and sent to the lab for further examination.
If your biopsy results indicate the presence of precancerous cells, your doctor may suggest a treatment method called the loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP). During this office procedure, your doctor applies a numbing agent to the cervix so you won’t feel any pain. Then a thin wire loop that emits an electrical current cuts away a small layer of cells on your cervix. The electrical current cauterizes the tissue on your cervix to help prevent bleeding. In many cases, this procedure removes all of the abnormal cells and additional surgery isn’t needed.
Another procedure that can both diagnose and treat abnormal cells is the cold knife cone biopsy. This procedure is done in a hospital setting under general anesthesia or other sedation. During this procedure, your doctor removes a cone-shaped area of tissue around the cervix. The sample is examined under a microscope for signs of cancer.
Talk to your doctor about which treatment option is best for you. Ask how often you need to have a pap smear after undergoing any of these treatments.