Abnormal Pap Result

in New York, New York

Pap smear tests are an extremely important part of your regular preventative care with your gynecologist. If a Pap test comes back abnormal, it’s common to have some anxiety and fear the worst. However, an abnormal Pap result does not necessarily mean you have cancer. Your gynecologist will work with you to understand your results and what it means for your reproductive health.

What is an Abnormal Pap Result?

After your gynecologist performs a Pap test during an appointment, the swab is sent to a lab for testing. If the result comes back ‘positive’, it means the lab found abnormal cells on your cervix tissue. This does not necessarily mean they are cancer cells, but rather normal cells that have changed because of exposure to human papillomavirus (HPV). These changes can range from mild to severe, and your gynecologist will determine whether you need further testing from here.

Why is Pap Testing Important?

Regular pap smears can test for the presence of abnormal cells on your cervix which can later become cancerous. There are some different types of cells that can be found during a Pap test which can be indicative of whether cancer might develop later on. For this reason, it’s important to have regular Pap tests so that your gynecologist can take a proactive approach to treatment and further testing. It’s important to keep in mind that a majority of abnormal Pap results are ultimately false alarms.

About Cervical Cancer

Pap smear test is performed to look for abnormal cells on the cervix. HPV testing looks for Human Papillomavirus, a virus associated with nearly all cancers of the cervix. Fortunately, cervical cancer is very rare, and nearly all abnormal Pap smears end up being a false alarm. You don’t need to worry too much about abnormal Pap results, but your gynecologist will still recommend further testing to be sure.

There are usually no symptoms of early-stage cervical cancer, so routine Pap tests are important to detect issues in the earliest stage possible. Cervical cancer is very treatable, with survival rates close to 100% when detected and treated early.

How Can My Gynecologist Help?

During your regular appointment, your gynecologist can perform a Pap test. We generally recommend having one every three years, but this can depend on factors like your age range and results. If you receive abnormal results, then your gynecologist can perform some additional tests like a colposcopy and biopsy to determine the kind of cells present and whether they may be cancerous. It’s important to ask any questions you might have about your results, the process, and what preventative steps you can take. Your gynecologist is here to help!

Schedule an Appointment

An abnormal Pap result can be frightening, but your gynecologist can help you through the process to make sure you understand your options and results. To get started and meet with our expert team, contact our New York City office by calling or filling out our online form.

Learn More on Healthful Woman

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Pap smears mandatory?

As a screening for cervical cancer, Pap smears are highly recommended for women over the age of 21 until later in life, around age 65. They are not required every year, and depending on the results of each test, may only need to be performed every three to five years.

At what age can a woman stop having Pap smears?

Depending on the results of your last few Pap smears, you should continue to have them until it's well established that there are no dangerous precancerous cells on the cervix.

Can a pap smear detect fibroids?

Yes, fibroids can be found during a pap smear test.

Can a yeast infection cause an abnormal pap?

Yes, yeast infections can lead to an abnormal pap smear finding known as atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASC-US).

Can endometriosis cause abnormal Pap?

Cervical endometriosis, or endometriosis causing growths on the cervix, can theoretically be detected through an abnormal Pap smear result. However, this condition is very rare.

Can pap smear detect BV?

While preventative pap smears are done to detect cells that may indicate you have or are at risk of developing cervical cancer, they can also test for other infections and diseases. Pap smears can effectively diagnose BV in women.

Can stress cause abnormal Pap smear?

Just like how stress can suppress your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and other viruses, it can also affect your cervical health. Stress can have an effect on the cervix, modulating its immune function. This can lead to an increase in the likelihood of abnormal pap smear results.

Do Pap smears detect cervical cancer?

A pap smear collects cervical cells so they can be tested for changes that may be caused by HPV, which if left untreated can turn into cervical cancer. That means a pap smear can detect precancerous cells and cervical cancer cells.

Do you need a Pap smear if not sexually active?

If you are at least 21 years old, you should begin cervical cancer screening, even if you are not sexually active.

Does a pap smear test for endometriosis?

No, a pap smear cannot detect endometriosis. To test for endometriosis, a pelvic exam, ultrasound, MRI, or laparoscopy may be performed.

Does an abnormal Pap mean cancer?

An abnormal pap test result does not automatically mean that you have cancer. Your healthcare provider will recommend the next steps based on your results.

How accurate is a Pap smear?

A pap smear is a safe way to screen for cervical cancer, but it is not foolproof. False-negative results are a rare possibility.

How common are false positive Pap smears?

False positive tests are far less common than false negative tests, however, 1-10% of pap smear tests result in a false positive.

How long do pap smear results take?

How quickly you receive your pap smear test results depends on the lab that examines the sample. Some labs may take a couple of days, while others may take up to three weeks.

What can an abnormal Pap mean?

An abnormal pap smear is not the same as a cancer diagnosis. An abnormal pap smear can mean the cervix looks unusual because of a bacterial infection, yeast infection, irritation, benign growths, hormonal changes, or precancer.

What cancers do Pap smears detect?

The only cancer that a pap smear can test for is cervical cancer.

What happens during a Pap smear exam?

During a pap smear test, your provider will place a speculum into the vagina to get to the cervix. A small sampler will then be used to gently collect cells from the cervix.

What is the next step after an abnormal pap smear?

The next step following an abnormal pap smear is a procedure called a colposcopy. This allows for a visual examination of the cervix to find and biopsy abnormal areas.

What type of infections cause an abnormal Pap smear?

Most abnormal pap smear results are caused by a human papillomavirus infection, a sexually transmitted infection, or a bacterial or yeast infection.

Who needs a Pap smear?

Women ages 21 to 29 should have a pap smear every three years, and women aged 30 o 65 should have a pap test every 5 years.

“I had a wonderful experience at the Carnegie Women’s Health/MFM Associates. I saw Dr. Stephanie Lam who was knowledgeable, kind, and had a wonderful bedside manner. I needed a consultation on a sensitive issue. Dr. Lam went above and beyond to help me and I felt that she really cared about me as a patient. Her sincere support made a big difference. I’m very grateful to Dr. Lam and the wonderful staff of her office for their support.”

-Zoryana M.
Request an Appointment
We will contact you shortly!