An abnormal Pap smear result is no cause for alarm, but it can raise a red flag that a more serious condition may require further investigation. Dr. Carrie Patterson, an OB/GYN with a private practice in Frisco, Texas, routinely performs Pap tests and understands the value of the Pap smear as a diagnostic and, more important, preventive tool. Make an appointment with Dr. Patterson today to learn how a Pap smear plays a critical role in your reproductive health.
The Pap smear is the best diagnostic tool for detecting cervical cancer. During this painless procedure, Dr. Patterson takes a swab of your cervix and tests it for the presence of abnormal cells on your cervix.
Minor conditions or factors commonly produce abnormal cells, but they can also signal or lead to a precancerous or cancerous condition, which further investigation will reveal. While cervical cancer is uncommon, the Pap smear allows for ample time to diagnose, treat, and even prevent, this potentially dangerous disease.
An abnormal Pap smear means your test came back positive for the presence of abnormal cells, which in and of themselves are not dangerous, but they can still lead to cancer. Usually, positive results don’t necessarily mean you have cervical cancer because abnormal cells are caused by several issues, including:
If your test is positive, Dr. Patterson typically waits to retest again in three to six months to assess if the cells have cleared up on their own. If they persist, she may order further testing, such as a colposcopy, to perform a biopsy on your cervix. Dr. Patterson reviews each case individually before deciding on a course of action based on your medical history.
How frequently Dr. Patterson performs a Pap smear depends on your age, your risk factors, previous Pap smear results, and your medical history. According to Women’s Health, a branch of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, women should follow these guidelines:
Dr. Patterson may recommend more frequent testing if your case calls for closer monitoring.