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HSR Research > Abnormal Pap smear

Abnormal Pap smear

An abnormal Pap smear may be caused by different factors. Pap smear is an important screening test for early detection of cervical cancer. This is a simple and painless method that helps to reveal a precancerous condition or a malignant tumor in the cervix, begin the treatment at an early stage and prevent disease progression. The Pap smear has helped to significantly decrease incidence and mortality rates of cervical cancer, especially in developed countries.  

Factors of an increased risk for an abnormal Pap smear and cervical diseases are: a high number of sexual partners, the first intercourse at an early age, history of sexually transmitted diseases, pernicious habits (smoking, for example), and a weak immune system. Regular (once a year at least) Pap smear screening is recommended for all sexually active women, especially for those who are infected by Human Papilloma Virus or have some abnormalities detected during colposcopy. 

During this test, a doctor takes a sample of cervical cells and places them on a glass slide. Usually two specimens are prepared: one with cells from the surface of the cervix and another with the cells from the cervical canal. The cells are stained by a special technique called Papanicolaou stain which enhances the appearance of abnormal changes. Then cells are examined under the microscope for inflammation, atypical or cancerous cells. An abnormal Pap smear result indicates that the test is considered as positive for some of these problems. 

Sometimes an abnormal Pap smear is diagnosed falsely, or, on the contrary, abnormal cells go undetected. To ensure a more faithful result of the test women should observe several recommendations. Smear shouldn’t be taken in period of menstruation or if there is cervical inflammation. It is better to avoid sexual contacts, use of vaginal suppositories or creams and vaginal douche for 48 hours before the test. It is recommended to take cervical smear before pelvic examination and colposcopy or not earlier than 48 hours after these procedures. It is also advisable to take a shower instead of a bath within 2 days before Pap smear. 

When analyzing a smear, first of all it is assessed if the quality of the sample is satisfactory or unsatisfactory for evaluation. If the smear is unsatisfactory, Pap smear should be repeated. If all collected cells have the same shape and size and there are no abnormal changes Pap smear is classified as normal. In case of an abnormal Pap smear, there are cells with different sizes and shapes which may be located in a disordered manner.

Often women having an abnormal Pap smear result are scared because they don’t understand what it really means. An abnormal result of this test does not necessarily signify the presence of a cancer or a precancerous condition. It means that it is required to do additional diagnostic procedures in order to determine the cause of abnormal Pap smear and establish an accurate diagnosis., Abnormal Pap Smear, ASCUS Pap Smear

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Dr. Joe Glickman, Jr., M.D.

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