.

What do the results of a Pap smear mean?

A negative result means that your cervix is normal.

A positive result indicates the presence of abnormal cells. Your physician may also call this an abnormal Pap. Remember that this is a test, not a diagnosis. A positive result does not prove that you have cancer or even dysplasia (a pre-cancerous condition). However, it usually means you should have further evaluation, such as a colposcopy (microscope used to look into the cervix) or a biopsy (removing a small amount of tissue from the cervix). Your doctor will discuss the results with you.

One in ten Pap smears indicates some abnormality, though most are not serious. Further testing will be required to determine if you have infection, inflammation, a yeast infection, trichomonas, herpes, or the human papilloma virus.

Researchers believe that cervical cancer is directly related to the human papilloma virus (HPV). There are over 100 different types of HPV. About 30 types are spread through sexual transmission and can possibly lead to cervical cancer. HPV is the main risk factor for cervical cancer, but most women who receive treatment for abnormal cells caused by HPV, do not develop cervical cancer.

In 2003, the FDA approved a screening test that can be done in conjunction with a Pap smear to determine if you have the HPV virus.The HPV DNA test can detect high risk types of HPV before any abnormal cells can be detected on the cervix. This screening is recommended for women over the age of 30, who are at an increased risk of an HPV infection turning into pre-cancerous cells.

Some Pap smears indicate an unsatisfactory sample because of recent sexual activity or use of vaginal creams and douches. Regardless of the reason, an abnormal Pap will require another Pap smear in a few months. With proper screening, cervical cancer is preventable and avoidable.

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