It can be heartstopping to hear that your Pap test result came back abnormal or positive. After all, you know that a Pap test — also called a Pap smear — screens for cervical cancer.
If you’ve received that news, of if you’re about to get a Pap test and want to know more about what the results might mean, Dr. Khashayar Shakiba at Women’s Pelvic Surgery of North Jersey offers you this brief overview of what an abnormal Pap test result might indicate.
What does an abnormal Pap result mean?
An abnormal Pap test result (or a positive result) points to the presence of unusual cells. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have cervical cancer, or precancerous cells, since there can be other reasons for the positive result, including:
Atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS)
This is the most common reason behind an abnormal Pap result. Squamous cells grow on the surface of a healthy cervix. Atypical squamous cells don’t always indicate cervical cancer. They can be caused by recent sexual activity or by HPV.
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is among the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and an estimated 80% of sexually active people (both male and female) have it. Of the roughly 100 types of HPV, about 14 strains can cause ASCUS and lead to cervical cancer. Two of those strains are considered “high risk” because they lead to the majority of cancer cases.
Squamous intraepithelial lesions (SIL)These are squamous cells that have been changed. They have the potential to become cancerous, but they can also resolve themselves.
Atypical glandular cells (AGC)
Glandular cells that don’t appear to be normal can also trigger an abnormal Pap result. AGC can indicate cancer in the upper parts of the cervix or uterus.
Squamous cell cancer or adenocarcinoma cells
This result means the collected cells were so abnormal that the pathologist is almost certain cancer is present.
What are my next steps?
Dr. Shakiba most likely orders additional tests or examinations following an abnormal Pap test to help determine if the results are cancer-related. These can include:
- Colposcopy: A magnifying instrument gives a closer examination of cervical, vaginal and vulvar tissue.
- Biopsy: Collecting tissue to be analyzed at a laboratory for signs of cancerous growth.
- HPV test: Checking for HPV., which can cause cells to change.
Get a Pap smear in New Jersey
Early-stage cervical cancer generally produces no signs or symptoms, so it’s important to get a Pap test every three years after turning 21. The estimated five-year survival rate for women with invasive cervical cancer when the cancer is detected at an early age is 92%.
Regularly seeing an experienced gynecologist is important. If you’re in or around Hackensack, New Jersey, Women’s Pelvic Surgery of North Jersey can offer the OB/GYN services you need to stay healthy. Dr. Shakiba is a board-certified OB/GYN who is experienced in conducting Pap tests and addressing abnormal results.
Call us at 201-273-9830 or request an appointment here on our website today to learn more about Pap smears and cervical cancer.