Pap Smears, HPV test & Abnormal Results
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers today.
Cervical cancer generally can be prevented through early detection and treatment of precancerous cell changes that occur in the cervix years before cervical cancer develops. These cell changes are caused by human papillomavirus, commonly known as HPV.
The traditional test for early detection has been the Pap smear test, where some cells are swept from the surface of cervix using a soft brush. The cells are then examined under the microscope to check for abnormalities.
Now, HPV test may be used along with a Pap smear test. HPV tests can detect the presence of high-risk types of HPV that can result in cervical cancer. If high-risk HPV is detected, the woman should be monitored closely and regularly as she would be at higher risk of having precancerous changes and cervical cancer.
Abnormal Pap Smear Results
Do not panic if you have been told that you have an abnormal Pap smear result. It usually does not mean you have cervical cancer. However, abnormal Pap smear results could indicate there may be precancerous changes in the cervix which warrant further investigations.
Additional tests that may be done when Pap smear results are abnormal include:
If HPV test had not been done together with the initial Pap smear test, then it should be done to assess if there are presence of high-risk HPV. It would be reassuring if no high-risk HPV was detected as that would mean the chances of the abnormalities progressing on to cervical cancer would be low. Conversely, if high-risk HPV is detected, then closer monitoring for progression to more serious degrees of precancerous changes would be necessary.
A colposcopy is an examination of the vagina and cervix using a magnifying instrument called a colposcope. During colposcopy, medications like acetic acid and iodine may be applied on the cervix to show up areas that are affected by precancerous changes. Once those areas are identified, a targeted biopsy would be done by removing a small amount of tissue from the affected areas. The biopsied tissue would then be sent to the laboratory for further testing.
Colposcopic examination and biopsies are usually very well tolerated by women with no need for anesthesia.
It is understandable that any woman who received abnormal Pap smear results would be worried. In Dr. Chee’s clinic, you can be assured that colposcopic examination can be done in a very private setting with the utmost care and comfort.