A Pap smear is a sample taken during a pelvic examination that allows the physician to examine cells of the cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus, or womb, which opens into the vagina. The Pap test can tell if you have an infection, abnormal cells or other medical problems such as cancer. Getting a Pap smear is important for all women, along with pelvic exams, as part of their regular routine health care exams. Pap tests are generally recommended for women who are 21 years older.
An abnormal Pap smear means that the cells of the cervix show slight abnormal changes. If abnormal or unusual cells are discovered, it may be an indication of cervical cancer, or the possibility of developing cancer in the future.
When a Pap smear shows abnormalities, the physician may perform a colposcopy — a procedure that allows close examination of the abnormal cells on the cervix — to determine the type of abnormality that exists. Depending on the results of the colposcopy, the physician will determine the best treatment plan for the patient. Abnormal Pap smears are best treated by removing the abnormal cervical tissue to prevent worsening or spreading to other areas of the cervix.
There are two main types of treatment for cervical abnormalities:
- Ablative therapy, which destroys the abnormal area, can include cryosurgery and laser ablation
- Excisional therapy, which removes abnormal area, involves loop electrosurgical excision procedures (LEEP), laser conization and cervical conization procedures.
The physicians of Obstetrics and Gynecology are always available to discuss abnormal Pap smears, what it means and possible treatment options.