Understanding Your Pap Test Results
What an "Abnormal"
Pap Test Result Means
Remember, an abnormal pap test result does not necessarily mean something serious. It can occur for many different reasons. When found early, most of the problems that cause an abnormal pap test result can be treated.1
Is further testing needed?
If you have an abnormal pap test result, further testing may be necessary. Other testing may include:1
- Repeat Pap Test — many times, abnormal cell changes resolve themselves
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Test — determines the presence of high-risk strain of HPV infection
- Pelvic Exam — an examination of the ovaries, uterus, and other organs
- Colposcopy — a procedure that enables the doctor to examine the cervix under magnification
Reasons for abnormal results
Many times, an abnormal pap test result is nothing to worry about. Many conditions that cause an abnormal result are relatively harmless and resolve themselves without treatment. Abnormal results might be caused by:1
- Vaginal irritation — a simple irritation may cause an abnormal pap test result
- HPV — the vast majority of women with HPV do not develop precancerous lesions
- Precancerous lesions — if left untreated, these cells may (but do not always) lead to cervical cancer; however, when treated early, there is a high rate of success
Remember that whether your results are normal or abnormal, routine pap testing is the best way to find cervical problems early.
1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Pamphlet. Abnormal Pap Test Results. Washington DC; 2004.