Abnormal Pap Test (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
Even though most abnormal Pap tests are caused by an HPV infection that will go away or by an inflammation that can be treated, you will need a follow-up evaluation to make sure your abnormal cell changes have resolved. Your need for treatment will vary depending on whether your abnormal cell changes are mild, moderate, or severe. Abnormal Pap test results may show minor cell changes (most common), moderate to severe cell changes (less common), or cervical cancer (rare). Depending upon the cause and severity of the cervical cell changes, you may need treatment.
If your Pap test shows that a vaginal infection or a treatable sexually transmitted infection (STI) is present, you can be treated with medicine.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the most common cause of an abnormal Pap test. There are many types of HPV. High-risk types can cause cell changes that could develop into cancer.
Evaluation of minor cell changes (ASC-US and LSIL)
An abnormal Pap test result is not uncommon because HPV infection is very common. Most cell changes seen in abnormal Pap test results will not progress to cervical cancer. If your abnormal Pap test shows minor cell changes, you may have several choices of what to do next.
Based on your age and the type of cell changes found, your doctor may recommend:
For more information, see:
Treatment for moderate to severe cell changes (HSIL, ASC-H, or AGC)
Treatment decisions for an abnormal Pap test that shows moderate to severe cell changes are based on the Pap test results, colposcopy, and cervical biopsy. A larger tissue sample may be removed by a cone biopsy. In some cases, this procedure may serve as treatment so you are cured. Follow-up to evaluate and treat moderate to severe cervical cell changes is recommended sooner than for minor cell changes.
For moderate or severe precancerous cell changes confirmed by biopsy, treatment will focus on destroying or removing the abnormal tissue. Treatment choices include LEEP, a surgery that uses a thin wire loop to remove the abnormal tissue; cryotherapy, which destroys tissue by freezing it; laser therapy, which destroys tissue with a laser beam; or cone biopsy (conization), in which a cone-shaped piece of abnormal tissue is removed from the cervix.
For cervical cancer, treatment will focus on destroying or removing the cancerous tissue. For more information, see the topic Cervical Cancer.
Treatment for an abnormal Pap during pregnancy
A Pap test may be done during pregnancy if a woman is due for her regular screening test. A pregnant woman with an abnormal Pap test is monitored closely throughout her pregnancy. Monitoring may include evaluation by colposcopy. The goal of evaluation is to rule out cervical cancer, a rare diagnosis. Treatment for abnormalities other than cancer is done after delivery.
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