Abnormal Pap Smear & Cervical Screening
A regular cervical screening test (CST) can assist in preventing cervical cancer and ensure these are detected early. The new guidelines recommend you have a CST every five years.
Why should I have a cervical screening test?
A cervical screening test (CST), previously known as a Pap smear, is a test which involves a brush being used to collect cells from the cervix. It is a screening test for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), precancerous, and cancerous cells that may require further specialist review.
It is recommended that women have a cervical screening test every five years to help in the prevention and early detection of cervical cancers and vulvo-vaginal lesions cancers caused by HPV
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 may have changed or HPV is detected. However, this does not mean you have cancer. Most women who have abnormal results do not have cervical cancer. Other reasons for an abnormal pap smear include:
- Inflammation – chronic cervicitis
- Infection – Herpes, Trichomoniasis, Human papillomavirus (HPV)
Abnormal pap smear results can be due to the following reasons:
The cervical cells are infected with the human papillomavirus which are acquired at the time of 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 (CIN 1) to high-grade (CIN 2-3). 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, including a pelvic ultrasound, are required to find the source and effect of these cells.
Extremely abnormal cells collected from the cervical screening test can signify the presence of cervical cancer. Squamous cell cancer appears in flat surface cells of the cervix or vagina. 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.