A Pap smear, a test that screens for cervical cancer, may not be the most dignified medical test for a woman -- even peeing on a stick to see if you’re pregnant pales in comparison to lying on an exam table, stripped from the waist down, with your feet up in stirrups. But it’s an important one. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 12,000 women in the US develop cervical cancer each year, and about 4,000 women die from it. Because cervical cancer often has no symptoms until it becomes advanced, getting screened early is critical.
Pap smear results are usually described as "normal" (no changes in cervical cells), "unclear" (cervical cells might be abnormal), or "abnormal" (cell changes found). The good news: Relatively few Pap smear results are abnormal. “It's actually not that common," explains Glenn Bigsby, DO, a gynecologic oncologist at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center and Pediatrix Obstetrix Medical Group of Colorado in Littleton. "Probably about 10 to 15 percent of patients in general will have an abnormal Pap smear during their lifetime.”
Still, getting an abnormal result can be scary. If your test is abnormal, don't panic: It doesn’t always mean you have cancer. Here's what could be behind your Pap results:
If your Pap results are abnormal -- or even unclear -- your doctor may order one or more of these tests:
There are many key areas in the field of female reproductive system health, including menstruation, pregnancy, fertility, and menopause. As a woman, you may be concerned about other issues related to your sexual health, including ...genital problems and sexually transmitted diseases. If you are a female that is sexually active, or over the age of 18, it is important to begin seeing a womans' health specialist in order to make sure that your reproductive system stays healthy. Before that, any concerns with menstruation should be addressed with a physician. As you get older, most women become concerned with issues pertaining to avoiding or achieving pregnancy, until menopause begins around age 50. More