The Papanicolaou (PAP) test is performed as a part of a woman's yearly gynecological exam. Abnormal results on a PAP test mean that there are changes in the cells of the cervix — the opening of the uterus (womb). Cervical cell changes are most often caused by inflammation. Inflammation may be the result of infections such as gonorrhea, herpes, or HPV (Human papilloma Virus - the virus that causes genital warts), bacterial vaginosis, chlamydia, trichomonis, or yeast infections.
Cervical cell changes can also signal pre-cancerous or cancerous conditions that need to be examined further by your physician. For the vast majority of women, an abnormal PAP test does not lead ultimately to the diagnosis of cervical cancer. Early treatment of pre-cancerous conditions can prevent cancer from ever occurring. Yearly PAP tests and complete follow-up care ensure that even if cervical cancer is present, it will be detected early enough that it can usually be treated successfully.
If dysplasia or pre-cancerous cells are found, your provider may recommend a colposcopy which is a procedure performed in your provider’s office, allowing direct viewing of the cervix through a special magnifying microscope (colposcope). Any abnormal cells may be biopsied (the taking a small sample of the cervix) to accurately diagnose the problem. Treatment of dysplasia may involve a LEEP (Loop Electrode Excision Procedure), which removes abnormal areas of the cervix with a thin electrode, or a cone biopsy, which removes a larger sample of tissue.
Medical Disclaimer: The information provided on the Gynecology & Infertility Associates website should be relied upon for medical education purposes only. It is not intended to replace the independent judgment of a health care provider. The appropriateness of a course of treatment for a patient may vary from the medical information provided herein due to individual conditions and/or complications.