Have you recently received a Pap smear, and to your surprise, the results came back positive, meaning that abnormal cells were found on your cervix? If so, it’s important to understand what that means for your health. At Alpha Internal Medicine we pride ourselves on the care we provide for women, and make sure they’re armed with the knowledge they need in instances such as this.
What does a Pap smear screen for?
A Pap smear is a common women’s health procedure that most women undergo, usually every three years after their 21st birthday, that screens for vaginal issues such as certain types of cancer, infections, and inflammatory diseases. Pap smears are extremely important and are your first line of defense in early detection for disease. Below are some of the things that a Pap smear tests for regarding in your cellular heath.
Atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS)
Squamous cells are flat, thin cells that grow on the surface of your cervix. When it comes to ASCUS, your Pap smear shows abnormal squamous cells, but the abnormalities don't necessarily suggest the presence of precancerous cells. In this instance, we’ll perform a test on your collected cervical cells to see if there's a need for concern.
Squamous intraepithelial lesion
If our team tells you you have a squamous intraepithelial lesion, it just means that your Pap smear revealed cells that may be precancerous. The cells may either be low grade or high grade.
If the abnormalities are considered low grade, it means the shape, size, and other characteristics of your cervical cells suggest that if a precancerous lesion is present, it most likely will not turn into cancer for many years. A high-grade lesion would suggest that there’s a greater chance of developing cancer much sooner.
Atypical glandular cells
Glandular cells make mucus. They form in the opening of your cervix and inside your uterus. If your glandular cells are atypical, appearing slightly abnormal, we’ll order further testing to determine their significance.
Squamous cell cancer or adenocarcinoma cells
This result is the most daunting. It means the cells collected from your Pap smear are so abnormal that it’s almost certain a cancer is present. The difference between squamous cell cancer and adenocarcinoma has to do with the location of the abnormal cells, with squamous cell cancer referencing the flat surface cells of your cervix or vagina and adenocarcinoma cells referencing abnormal glandular cells.
What to do when your Pap smear tests are abnormal
If your Pap smear tests come back abnormal, don’t panic. We’ll perform a deeper dive into why your Pap smear came back positive and run the necessary tests to determine the cause of abnormalities. In many cases, a Pap smear can come back positive due to a vaginal infection completely unrelated to cancer or other serious ailments.
Rest assured we’ll work very closely with you every step of the way so you understand the severity of your situation, and we’ll work hand-in-hand with you on the appropriate next steps.
If you’re in need of a Pap smear, or have recently received one with abnormal results, please call us or schedule an appointment online today.