Pap Test Changes

Cervical cancer can be detected in its earliest stages with a Pap test, or Pap smear. Named after the doctor credited with the test’s invention, George Papanicolaou, this screening can detect cellular changes that may eventually become cervical cancer.

Thanks to Pap tests, precancerous lesions are diagnosed much more often than actual, invasive cervical cancer. Even so, it is estimated that more than 4,000 women a year will die from cervical cancer. The average age a woman in the U.S. is diagnosed with cervical cancer is 50 years old.

What Is a Pap Test?

Pap tests are usually performed as a part of a well-woman exam. It involves taking a sample of tissue from the cervix during a pelvic exam. The tissue sample is analyzed in a lab for abnormal cellular changes.

How Often Should You Get a Pap Test?

How often you should receive a Pap varies, depending on the results of your previous Pap test, as well as your age, and whether you have any risk factors for cervical cancer.

It is recommended that women get regular Pap screening from the age of 21 up until age 65. Ask your OB-GYN provider at EstrogenicA Health 360 what Pap screening schedule is right for you.

What About the HPV Test?

Most – but not all – cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the nation. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is so common that all sexually active people are expected to become infected with HPV at some point in their lives – unless they received the HPV vaccine.

The HPV test looks for the presence of the virus that can cause cervical cancer. Like a Pap test, it is done using a tissue sample from the cervix.

Your OB-GYN provider may recommend both an HPV and Pap test during your well-woman exam. Both screenings are important, in slightly different ways:

HPV Test

The HPV test can identify if you currently have an HPV infection, and whether it is the low-risk or high-risk virus type. In most cases, your immune system will clear an HPV infection by the time of your next well-woman exam. There is no treatment for an HPV infection. For some women, an HPV infection can persist over time and progress to cervical cancer.

Pap Test

The Pap test can help identify whether cellular changes have occurred in your cervix, whether due to an HPV infection or not. These changes may indicate cervical tissue with the potential to develop into cancer.

What to Expect After an Abnormal Pap Test

Your Pap test results may be normal (“negative”), abnormal (“positive”), or unclear. Abnormal Pap test results do not mean you have tested positive for cervical cancer – just that cellular changes in your cervical tissue have occurred. In the vast majority of cases, the changes return to normal after your next Pap test.

If your Pap test changes appear to be serious (high-grade or precancerous), your OB-GYN provider may recommend more sensitive screenings. These in-office procedures may include:

  • Colposcopy – a procedure similar to a Pap test, except that a microscope is used so that your provider can better examine cervical tissue before taking a biopsy.
  • Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP) – this procedure is used to eliminate the suspect cervical tissue after abnormal cells are identified in a colposcopy or Pap test. After numbing the cervix, your provider will use a thin wire loop to remove the targeted tissue. The entire procedure takes just a few minutes.

The earlier potential cervical cancer is detected, the more successful treatment efforts are likely to be.

Cervical Cancer Screening & Treatment in Dothan and Enterprise, AL

A Pap test is considered the gold standard when it comes to detecting the earliest signs of cervical cancer. Should your Pap test results indicate cellular changes in the lining of your cervix, have no fear. The OB-GYN providers at EstrogenicA Health 360 can expertly and compassionately conduct more advanced screenings and treatments.