Abnormal Pap Smear

A cervical screening test (CST) is more commonly called a Pap smear. The test involves a small spatula and brush that collects a sample of cells from the cervix and vagina. It is a screening test for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), precancerous, and cancerous cells that require further analysis.

Regular cervical screening tests can assist in preventing cervical cancers, cancer caused by HPV, and ensure these are caught early. It is recommended you have a cervical screening test every two years.

Reasons for an abnormal pap smear

When there is an abnormal cervical screening test, it is known as a positive result. An abnormal result means that cervical cells have changed. However, this does not mean you have cancer. Most women who have an abnormal result do not have cervical cancer. Other reasons for an abnormal pap smear include:

  • Inflammation
  • Infection
  • Herpes
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Abnormal pap smear results

If you have experienced abnormal pap smear results, there are a number of different reasons for this.

High-Risk HPV

The cervical cells are infected with the human papillomavirus from sexual intercourse. High-risk HPV may lead to cervical cancer if prolonged cervical infection over years. A colposcopy is recommended.

Atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance

These thin and flattened cells are most common in abnormal pap tests. They grow on the surface of a healthy cervix and are unclear to determining pre-cancerous or benign cells.

Squamous intraepithelial lesion

An abnormal growth of cervical cells is present, ranging from low-grade to high-grade, which may be precancerous cells, residing on the surface of the cervix. If these cells suggest a precancerous nature, the full development of cervical cancer is most likely several years away.

Atypical glandular cells

These are uncommon mucus­ producing cells that grow within the uterus and opening of the cervix. Whether or not these cells are cancerous is difficult to determine. Therefore, further test results are required to find the source and effect of these cells.

Cervical cancer

Extremely abnormal cells collected from the cervical screening test can signify the presence of cervical cancer. Immediate evaluation with a colposcopy and cervical biopsy is important if these cells are found.


After an abnormal cervical screening test. a colposcopy is recommended to closely examine the tissues of the cervix, vagina and vulva. A colposcope is a special instrument that uses lenses to magnify the pelvic area, helping distinguish abnormal from normal tissues.

A cervical biopsy involves taking a small tissue sample. The sample is then delivered to a laboratory for accurate analysis and conclusive diagnosis.