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Abnormal Pap Test – Navigating Your Results

By Laura Van Steyn PA-C


Receiving an abnormal test can be scary. We are here to help!


Pap Smear Test: Let’s face it, no woman enjoys getting a Pap Test, but it is the ONLY WAY to effectively screen the cervix for cellular changes associated with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that can lead to cervical cancer.  Unfortunately, with ever-changing guidelines and varying results, this test can be confusing for patients.


At McDowell Mountain Gynecology, we strive to deliver comprehensive patient education to help patients understand their test results. We also provide a comfortable, safe environment that helps patients feel at ease.


Currently the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP) recommends Pap Tests for every woman aged 21-65. From age 21-29, a pap smear is recommended at least every 3 years. From age 30-65, one is recommended every 3 years along with HPV testing.  HPV is a very common sexually transmitted virus that can lead to cervical cancer. Most sexually active women will come in contact with HPV during their lifetime. Fortunately, most young people with a good immune system will also clear HPV on their own. However, if HPV persists or if a woman suffers from health issues that decrease her immunity, the risk for cervical cancer is greater.


If you have ever had an abnormal test, have multiple sexual partners, are high risk for HPV, or if you have a high risk of cervical cancer, you will need more frequent testing.  Also, remember that yearly visits with your provider are still recommended regardless of the need for a Pap Test!


So, what are the most common abnormal results?





These results are listed in order of concern for precancerous or cancerous cells with ASC-US being the least concerning.


After receiving an abnormal result, you may need a biopsy of your cervix called a colposcopy. A Pap Test can indicate abnormal cells but cannot confirm precancerous or cancerous cells. The necessity of a biopsy depends on your age, your past results, and your HPV test results. Your provider at McDowell Mountain Gynecology will determine the need for a biopsy or other procedure if your risks for developing cervical cancer are moderate to high. If your risk is stable or low, your provider may instead recommend another Pap Test in 6-12 months.  In addition, an abnormal result may also be due to other issues such as infection, atrophic changes, polyps, abnormal glandular cells or endometrial cells.


Pap smear tests are essential to every woman’s health for preventing cervical cancer. Rest assured that our team will be there to guide you through every step! 


Call 480-483-9011 today to book your next appointment!  We look forward to taking care of you!


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