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Pap Smear (cont.)

When Should I Call the Doctor for Pap Smear Complications?

Early cervical precancers and cancer often have no signs or symptoms. Therefore, it is important to have regular Pap smears. Symptoms usually appear when the cancer has progressed.

The following symptoms must be reported to a health care professional right away:

These symptoms do not always indicate that someone has cancer. Other conditions may cause these symptoms, but a check-up is necessary to determine the cause.

What Is the Pap Smear Follow-up?

If a woman's Pap smear result is normal, she will continue routine screening.

If the Pap smear result is abnormal, the doctor will recommend repeat testing or more frequent follow-up, depending upon the exact type of abnormality and whether any infection is present. The doctor may choose to do a procedure known as a colposcopy.

  • In this test, the doctor looks at the cervix through an instrument called a colposcope (a lighted microscope) to look for an explanation for the abnormality in the Pap smear finding. It is performed in the office in a manner similar to the Pap smear, but the doctor uses a special viewing instrument that magnifies the appearance of the surface of the cervix to examine the area for abnormalities.
  • The exam is not painful and has no adverse effects. It is possible to perform this exam during pregnancy.
  • If there are abnormal findings on the cervix, the doctor will perform a biopsy (take a sample of the tissue to view under a microscope).
  • In a biopsy, the doctor will take a small sample of the tissue of the woman's cervix to see if cancer cells are present. A biopsy is the only way to determine if she has precancer, true cancer, or neither.
  • Several types of biopsies can be performed under different types of anesthesia.
  • To treat precancerous tissue or a very early cancer, the doctor may remove the abnormal tissue entirely during certain types of biopsy methods.

Pap Smear Pictures

Correct position on an exam table for the Pap test.
Correct position on an exam table for the Pap test. Click to view larger image.

The doctor removes cells from the cervix for testing.
The doctor removes cells from the cervix for testing. Click to view larger image.

Medically reviewed by Wayne Blocker, MD; Board Certified Obstetrics and Gynecology

REFERENCES: American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer, Pap Smear.

MedscapeReference. Pap Smear.

US Preventive Services Task Force. Cervical Cancer Screening.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/23/2016

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