Abnormal Pap Smear

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Abnormal Pap Smear

Pap smears are always included in your yearly pelvic exam because they screen for cervical cancer. The doctors at The Association for Women’s Health Care recommend regular Pap smears because cervical cancer is treatable when it’s found at an early stage. If you haven’t had a Pap smear in a few years, please don’t wait any longer, contact us to schedule an appointment at one of our convenient locations in The Loop in Chicago and Northbrook, Illinois.

Abnormal Pap Smear Q&A

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer begins when cells in the cervix begin to grow at an abnormally rapid pace. At first, the cells go through pre-cancerous changes. At this stage, some women will develop cancer, while others won’t, even without treatment. For those who develop cancer, it typically takes several years for the precancerous stage to become cervical cancer.

What causes cervical cancer?

A virus called the human papilloma virus (HPV) causes nearly all cases of cervical cancer. The type of HPV that causes cervical cancer is transmitted during sexual intercourse with a person who’s already infected with HPV. You can get HPV from having any type of sex and even when your partner doesn’t have any symptoms of the virus.

In some women, HPV doesn’t cause any problems because the immune system suppresses the virus within 1-2 years. In others, the virus invades healthy cells in the cervix, which causes them to grow abnormally.

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer usually doesn’t cause any symptoms in the early stage. As the cells turn cancerous and begin to affect surrounding tissues, you may develop symptoms such as:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding: Longer, heavier, bleeding between periods or after menopause, bleeding after sex
  • Unusual discharge from the vagina
  • Pain during sex

These symptoms should never be ignored, so please contact The Association for Women’s Health Care for a thorough examination. You may not have cervical cancer, but if you do, early detection and treatment is vital.

What is a Pap smear?

A Pap smear is a way to screen for cervical cancer. Your doctor uses a simple wooden or plastic scraper or brush to remove cells from the cervix. The sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis.

When the Pap sample is viewed under a microscope, early changes in cervical cells are identified. Depending on the results, you’ll need further screening, possibly an HPV test, or your doctor may perform a colposcopy to take a biopsy and verify the exact diagnosis.

Using regular Pap smears for early detection of cellular changes means you’ll catch precancerous changes at their earliest stage, when they can be successfully treated.